I still haven’t heard back from Sister Clare, despite public and private entreaties to her.
It seems like she might be gone for good from this blog.
It’s time maybe now for me to reflect more generally on what happened, and the aftermath.
I’ve spoken of the emotional toll on me, so I won’t go into that. But some people privately have asked – why did I engage with Sister Clare from the outset? I’m not a Catholic, and I’m not conventionally religious. So why bring her onto this blog, and give her Moderator Permissions on the forum?
I don’t really know. I am not a nun guy. This is the first time I’ve had anything to do with nuns, other than a cursory hello when I’m at funerals and weddings where nuns are in attendance.
Actually, I tell a fib.
I was talking to my mother the other day. After coming back from the trip. I was born in London – my parents are both Australian, but at the time of my birth they were working in London as dentists. Doing the Australian thing of working overseas before settling back down in Aussie.
My mother asked if I’d taken the time to visit the hospital where I was born – at Wimbledon. I told her I hadn’t – anyway I thought the hospital had burnt down. She said no – It’s St. Anne’s Hospital. You should go visit it next time you’re in London.
I asked what kind of hospital it was, and she said Catholic.
This was a complete surprise to me. My parents were/are Anglican, and I remember growing up aware that they had a pretty sniffy attitude towards Catholics. You have to remember this was Brisbane in the 1950s. Very conservative.
My mother told me that I was brought into the world by Catholic nuns. I was stunned. I had no idea. And I found this out only a couple of days ago.
Anyway, getting back on point – I saw no harm in engaging with a nun on the blog, then later on the forum. And I thought it might be good for those who are Catholic, and are religious, to have a nun to chat to, and get advice from.
But later I started to have some misgivings.
Privately Sister Clare began telling me some harrowing stories – often emphasising her poverty. And as I stated in one of the Strange Tale posts, she also began to take umbrage at some of you folk on the blog. She asked me at times to admonish those she thought had treated her with disrespect.
But she was enormously popular on the blog, and I had no real grounds to bring her into line, and so I let things slide.
Susan Sande then organised the Kit the Nun campaign, and some of you responded with enormous generosity. Sister Clare blossomed during this time. Publicly and privately, she gushed with gratitude.
I didn’t realise that Susan was sending the goods collected onto Sister Clare. I thought she was holding them until closer to the tour. When I discovered that she was forwarding stuff, I contacted Susan and asked her not to – to hold onto the stuff until I told her it was okay to on-send.
I told Susan at the time that I was concerned that Sister Clare might not be able to make the tour, for health reasons. And this was true. But my deeper concern was one of credibility.
It was around this time that Sister Clare told me she needed $500 urgently to attend the Retreat – and if she couldn’t pay the Retreat fees she would be expelled from her Order.
This sent up some immediate red flags for me. I saw it as a thinly disguised plea for money. When I told her I wasn’t in a position to send her that $500, she immediately came back saying: “Oh Bill, I would NEVER ask you for money…”
So when the email came in saying she’d been robbed – I was immediately suspicious. Rght from the first email. I then set about trying to determine whether she was telling the truth. For me, the key was the Police Report, which she claimed she had filed. If I could prove there was no Police Report, then I could prove that she’d lied to me. So I employed my dormant journalistic skills to determine the truth.
Okay – you all know the rest of the story.
During those posts the stats on the blog went nuts. A lot of people tuned in. And some tuned out, too. There are some people who were regulars here who I haven’t heard from since. Who comes to the blog and who goes never worries me. Numbers come and go.
It’s of passing interest, but that’s not why I post.
I can’t now take Sister Clare on the tour. She was presented as a Spiritual Counsellor, and I can’t in good conscience offer up as that, knowing that she used her vows as a nun to try and justify her lies to me.
That to me is the worst thing that Sister Clare did during the whole episode. I lost respect for her after that. I can forgive her, but I’m not sure if that respect will ever be fully restored.
What did I learn?
I learnt a lot about the veil of the internet. I thought I knew Sister Clare – but then I realised that perhaps I didn’t know her at all. Is her gravatar picture really her? I remember now very early on, I wanted to speak to her to check her out, and I suggested we Skype. She didn’t want to do that – claimed she didn’t know how Skype worked.
She might have been right – I put it down to nuns being technologically challenged – and didn’t think anything more of it. But later I began to wonder – perhaps she didn’t want me to see her face?
And then Ingrid, making several attempts to come and see Sister Clare – always being rebuffed for one reason or another. Did Sister Clare not want Ingrid dropping in because she would see that she wasn’t the person in the photo?
I have no idea. But it all made me think.
Perhaps the most important thing I learned from the episode though was to consider a black and white issue in subtler shades of grey.
A nun lied to me. Black & white.
But does she have mental health issues? Does her relationship with her handicapped son impact on her state of mind – her behaviour? Were the lies important in the whole scheme of things? Was she only seeking attention, approval, sympathy, love – as she later claimed? And if so, can the lies be forgiven?
There’s still a lot for me to process.
The black & white of me is that I publicly persecuted a nun. That’s nothing to be proud of.
I’m not going to put that in my CV.