Sister Clare wash up – Pt2

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.

Weird, huh?

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.

Bill Bennett.

40 thoughts on “Sister Clare wash up – Pt2

  1. Bill –

    Guess I missed the part where you “…persecuted a nun…”.

    You trusted someone. By virtue of that trust, you implicitly endorsed that person in a public way. When you discovered that you had been misled, you corrected that error in the only way possible….publicly. It was done gently, with exhaustive presentation of both sides of the story and with no recriminations.

    It was not pretty but I am not sure that it is possible for it to have been done more graciously. Beat yourself up if you must but one wonders the point.

    Perhaps it is time to move on, eh?



  2. Dear Bill and PGS family, I had numerous emails with Bill during the SC blogs and he knows why I never posted and I also told him not long ago, that I was not going to be posting on the blog. Obviously I have recently, it felt ok to do so.

    Since Bill has evoked my name in this blog posting, I feel I need to say something. During the time of the SC blogs, I needed to stay away. Everytime I read an installment, I physically would get nausea and I either was not able to sleep or would have the worst nightmares. That had nothing to do with Bills accounting of the events but everything to do with SC actions. I had red flags from the day SC came on to this blog, but much like some of you and later on Bill, tried to shrug them off, until my private emails with SC.

    I will not comment on what I think of SC actions.

    I will however address Bill’s “mia culpa”. Bill, please release it into the Universe, you are caught in a vortex not of your making. Stay in it or step out of it, that is your call. Forgiveness is a beautiful gift, gift it to yourself first.

    Light and Love, blessings Ingrid


    • Sue – I’m saying this respectfully to you – your comment was not kind and it was not respectful to Bill. If you find the blog repetitive you can always choose to unsubscribe.


  3. Give it a rest, Bill.

    Ultimately, all you’re saying is that Sister Clare isn’t a “true pilgrim” (tm and (c) Saint James AD 33, Pentecost, Jerusalem)

    Maybe you’re just too snail-like a pilgrim to realise that it’s not always about catching up with the others — sometimes, you just need to leave people behind.

    The TRUE pilgrims will always catch up with you at the end anyway.

    Regardless of whether Sister Clare is now one day ahead of you or one day behind your own personal Camino — it’s unworthy of you to carry on spreading warnings about that other pilgrim you may have had some trouble with along the Way ; we are, meanwhile, every single one of us, sinners and fools.


  4. I agree that it has gone far enough and there is nothing worthwhile left to say. We all react to what happened in different ways. Some, like Ingrid, take it all very personal and that is right for her. Me, I don’t really care either way. I try not to judge her as I know not what her intentions were, but beyond that, I don’t think much about it. I did comment on someone’s email when they seemed to be attacking Sister Clare as though they had great insights and she had attacked them. I believe Bill is a very smart and intuitive man, and he is perfectly capable of handling any of these messes or attacks with his own wits. I don’t think he needs any advice from me. He just needs to know that I am behind him, whatever he does, because he is my friend and I do feel a personal connection to him. But, I don’t need to tell him how to run his blog. Of that, I am certain I am not qualified. He obviously does it because he enjoys it and it brings an element into his life. I follow it and comment along the way for the same reasons. That’s it. Nothing more to it. I have never seen so many folks trying to give so much helpful advice when for the most part, none has been asked for.

    I have probably said too much, so I will go back to poking fun at my best Mate from Australia. Actually my only Mate from Australia. So, I guess he could be my worst Mate from Australia also. Any advice for me???????????

    What a strange collection we are,

    Love you all, Steve


    • Steve you crack me up, I would love to be there one day when something kicks you in the butt and you turn around and nobody is there… 😉 Love you too



    • Haha Steve,

      you’ll be in a right predicament come next April when you meet more of us Aussies on the Portuguese Camino and have to decide who your ‘besties’ and your ‘worsties(?)’ are!

      I think besties are called BFF’s in this modern day and age so given we are from Australia I think you are going to choose your BAFF’s and your WAFF’s?

      Cheers for the laughs!


    • Hi Steve,
      I think why so many people left (unasked for) helpful advice is because they love and respect Bill so much that they were so sorry SSC hurt and disappointed him when he the only thing he did wrong was to trust her and be her friend.
      Speaking of friends, Steve, you probably have more friends in Australia than you think. I love reading your no nonsense ( dare I say no bullshit) posts. You are so right in saying what a strange collection of people we are, but aren’t we lucky to be brought together via Bill’s blog?


      • Fran, Of course I am not qualified to speak for Bill, but personally, if it were me, I would just want to move on and forget the incident. In the grand scheme of all of our lives, including his, that incident is irrelevant.

        Glad you don’t take offense to my occasional no BS high horse. Frankly, I much prefer taking jabs at Bill, than gathering in his corner to protect him. It’s more fun. He does not need us in his corner but I think he enjoys it. He now knows I ALWAYS have his back. Amazing the unlikely close friendship he and I have formed—the famed international renowned Australian film director, photographer, and author, and the country bumpkin from Texas.

        Can’t wait to go to Portugal and see if he looks as good in person as in pictures. Of course, we can only assume that is really him in the pictures. Of course I will report back to the blog.

        Someday I will come to Australia. With all my new friends I will not even have to book any rooms. 🙂

        Thanks for the feedback Fran,



    • Steve – anytime you make it to Sydney there’s a room reserved for you here at Cronulla! The BBQ will be fired up and (my) Steve, who’s an ace BBQ’er, will do Spanish BBQ for us all! BTW – the drinks fridge will be full … bbq-ing’s thirsty work! Hooly dooly – it’s gonna be fun!
      Cheers – Jenny
      PS – we can throw some prawns on the barbie too!
      PPS – Franny, Bill, Jennifer, Britta, Janet, Anne and all who can make it to Cronulla are invited!


        • Anytime Steve! Happy Thanksgiving to you and to Jill – I hope that you get to call each other during this special day.
          Cheers – Jenny


          • Jenny,

            We talk almost every day and sometimes several times. We are the strangest divorcing couple. We really want the other to be happy, and we will probably always be in each other’s lives. We had gotten boring and bored with our marriage and decided to do something about it before we did resent each other. Jill remains my best friend, though we will be officially divorced December 30th. We will probably go some place cool to celebrate our divorce. How’s that for friendly divorce.

            Happy Thanksgiving to all in the US, and great day to all the rest.



      • Steve and Jill –
        You’re both VERY welcome. I hope you both can make it to Australia in the not too distant future. You’ll love Sydney – it’s a fantastic place to live – so much to see and do.
        Cheers – Jenny


        • We actually have a good friend who is a cruise director and spends most of his time traveling the world, but maintains a “closet” in Sydney.


        • Hello all and especially to you Jenny,

          It’s true all that which Steve has communicated. We are blessed in our divorce as we were in the early time of our marriage. It’s so wonderful to have Steve as my best friend and watching his growth and subsequent happiness. We are very lucky and we really are going to celebrate our divorce in some special way. Coming to you all in the down under sounds lovely. That is incredibly generous of you. What a thrill it would be to met you all. Thanks again and best to you.




          • Hi Jill –

            Thanks so much for your beautiful post.

            I have so much admiration for you and for Steve – you are both amazing in the way you’re working through your divorce and the way in which you both have the wish to continue to have a very special part of each other’s lives.

            A wise person once said …

            “Rain comes and goes, sunshine comes and goes, happiness comes and goes, sadness comes and goes … living through hardships and emotional pain, when faced head on, is what leads us to our humanity, is where empathy is learned, where love for others is learned.”

            You and Steve are such fine examples of two people who have been able to face emotional pain head-on, and both deal with that pain with love and respect – wow – that’s rare. Good on you both.

            Jimmy’s Angels (aka Britta, Janet and me) will be so thrilled to see you and Steve in Australia any time you can get yourselves over here! If the ‘closet’ arrangement (now Bill, no jumping in here please!!!) doesn’t work out, as I’ve said, there’s tons of room at our place, and that Spanish BBQ definitely a go-er!

            See you on billsroadfood and in the not too distant future here in Sydney!

            Love to you and Steve –

            Jenny xo xo


          • I had thought about just going to dinner, but I guess a trip to Australia would be a suitable celebration. Gal knows how to celebrate. One of the many things I love about her.


      • Hi Jenny,
        I am proud to call you my sister as well, and Steve, I would love to meet the country bumpkin from Texas, I’ll make the potato bake! xxx


  5. Bill,

    I’ve remained quiet for the most part today, because I believe I have made my feelings about this whole sad sorry affair known to you as well as the PGS family.

    Please, release it, let it go. It simply is not worth the time, effort and though you are giving it.

    You gave SSC many chances to explain and even apologize publicly and she has not taken the opportunity. To me that screams guilt, she has chosen instead to remain silent.

    You did not persecute a Nun, you stated quite clearly the facts without emotion or judgment. Like Steve, I stand behind you 100%, my friend.



  6. Sister Clare…WHO? Seriously, let us ALL get past it. Bill feels quilt. I was snookered and contributed a sizable amount of my personal resource in this scheme. Susan can verify. But, when all is said and done…it is just stuff. None of what transpired will affect us into the future unless we allow it to. You are the jailer of your conscience.

    Bill, if it continues to bother you, I will assign you a rightful penance to do. How about walking a Camino? That is what is is originally all about. Walk to Santiago de Compostela in a solemn (not a party to go) manner, venerate (appreciate) the relics of Saint Paul the Greater, and receive the grand daddy of all forgiveness from the Holy Roman Church – the plenary indulgence – the proverbial get out of Hell free card.

    In your case, and for all similarly disposed or simply non-practicing Catholics, simply appreciate the history, culture, grandeur and the sheet awesomeness of the Camino and everything it was over more than ONE THOUSAND YEARS, what is currently is and what it will be. In this context, we are all grains of sand on a beach – a really BIG beach.

    But seriously, the only sure fire way to purge all of this angst is to just do another Camino. Free your mind, purge your soul. Let your PGS be your guide and compass. Absent this bump in the road, you seem to have it all sorted.

    Best wishes to all.

    Tom (turtle)


    • Hey Tom,

      Well said. I am sorry you lost some “stuff” to the Sister Clare episode. Kinda personalizes it for you, I understand. I was going to contribute, but was waiting till the time got closer for some reason or other. Maybe PGS. Ha!!

      Best to you and Happy Thanksgiving,



  7. So, Steve and Jill, having – again (I’m just so blessed!!) been on a yoga retreat, so being late, as usual with my comment, I’ll just jump in and say that I live at the other end of town to Jenny (& Janet). They’re on the south side, I’m on the sunnier (on doubt about that!!) north side and I also want to extend an invitation for you both to stay at any time at all. I don’t have a BBQ or a Steve, but a really great Thai restaurant just around the corner and I figure you just can’t ask for more!! As it happens, my bi-annual Christmas drinks party is happening this Saturday 7th, so if you get yourselves organised really quickly, you’d be very welcome!! and if that’s not possible, any other time 🙂


    • Hi Brita and welcome back!

      I just wanted to personally thank you again for your lovely invite! Gosh, I wish we could get our act together by the 7th but I know it’s impossible. We could have celebrated our 13 anniversary which is today along with our divorce which should be close to years end!! And all in the down under with our new friends! But, we will work on some dates and keep you all posted. Here’s my email address for anyone who might want to drop a line anytime:
      Sending love your way. Have a great day and a wonderful holiday season to everyone.




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