Clerical Habits & Doubtful Virtue- PD James

Dr. Chris Willerton
“Clerical Habits and Doubtful Virtue in the Detective Fiction of P.D. James”

4 people have died by end

religious conflict- priests at seminary are worried about the dissolution of the college at St. Anselm’s

disguise = power of ethos

detective stories deal with disguise
special terror in learning that a priest is the murderer

ideal detective, the minister’s son who spent 3 summers at St. Anselm’s

Church of England “national in special sense, physical symbol of religious/moral belief”
according to PD James, the church of her childhood

PD James is “breathtakingly candid” about showing the positive and negative, according to Ralph Wood.

Both clerics are partly right
There is a good argument for closing it,
but holiness and peace will devolve if social justice is the focus.

noblesse oblige, men only
Woman comes every year to lecture on poetry.
Detective admits college’s “ethos is out of step with the views of the church”

the last warden wonders if he had changed a single life
archdeacon admits class envy, wants edu focused on sociology
clerical ethos forced him into a mask
His first wife was insane.
She took an overdose. He found her unconscious and did not call the police.

Who killed the archdeacon who supported closing the college? Who killed the old servant?

4 priests are believers
One was put in prison for 3 years for child molestation.

Some working at the college are not believers.
One woman pretends to be sister, is half sister, and has sex with her brother.
Greek teacher is an unbeliever. Murderer. Writes boastful confession letter.
The student who is related to Anselm’s founder is the Greek teacher’s son. He will inherit the property if the school is closed.

Anselm papyrus was hidden by Father Martin. At the end he burns it, having concluded that it was a tool for evil, not for good.

The problem with the detective’s search for truth is that he doesn’t get the whole truth.
Father Martin burning the papyrus.
Canadian scholar believing in the existence of the papyrus.
Limits our thinking to evidence.
When thinking of the papyrus, not thinking of Christ.

Christ offers humanity the option of not listening.

No character speaks only for PD James,
but humility and faithful patience of visiting prof is similar to James.

Take away lesson: Humility.

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