Christ of the Hills has been the focus of numerous sexual assault claims.
The founder of Christ of the Hills Monastery in Blanco County and three other monks were arrested Tuesday on charges of sexual assault of a child and organized crime, according to the Blanco County sheriff’s office.
A fifth monk, imprisoned in Beaumont on a previous sexual assault conviction, also was charged in the case Tuesday.
William Edward Hughes, 55, known as Father Vasilli; Walter Paul Christley, 44, known as Father Pangratios; and Hugh Brian Fallon, 40, known as Father Tihkon; were arrested at the church in the 2400 block of Trainer Wuest Road, police said. They were being held at the Blanco County Jail on Tuesday night. Officials said their bail amounts would be set by a judge Wednesday morning.
Founder Samuel Alexander Greene Jr., 61, was arrested Tuesday afternoon when he returned to the monastery after visiting a nursing home in Austin, Blanco County authorities said. He was charged with sexual assault of a child, organized criminal activity/sexual assault of a child and sexual performance of a child. Officials said Greene was released on bail Tuesday.
Jonathan Irving Hitt, a 45-year-old monk who was charged Tuesday with sexual assault of a child and organized criminal activity, is serving a 10-year sentence for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old novice monk. He was convicted in 1999 on eight counts of indecency with a child. The novice, who was 14 when the accusations were made, said he had been molested by Hitt and Greene.
Greene, who also is known as Father Benedict, pleaded guilty in 2000 to indecency with a child. He was sentenced to 10 years’ probation, according to court documents.
In 2002, the monastery settled out of court with the youth for $1 million, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
The current investigation began a year ago after Greene reportedly admitted that he’d sexually assaulted several children more than a decade ago at the monastery, Sheriff Bill Elsbury said.
Christ of the Hills Monastery opened near Blanco in 1981 and is best known for its icon of the Virgin Mary that is said to weep tears of oil.
However, Elsbury said that Greene admits the icon is a fraud.
“The whole thing is going to be exposed as a sham,” he told the Express-News. “They just put the tear drops on there themselves and then got all these people making donations trying to get some kind of miracle cure.”
The monastery was formerly associated with the Russian Orthodox Church, but the church broke ties.
Monastery officials did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
Additional material from The Associated Press.