Police raid Central Texas monastery

Law enforcement officials raided a hilltop monastery near Blanco in Central Texas on Tuesday morning after getting indictments accusing five monks of sexually assaulting a boy there about 13 years ago, officials said.

The Blanco County Sheriff’s Office and federal investigators continued to search Tuesday evening, KXAN television station in Austin reported.

Samuel A. Greene Jr., the 61-year-old founder of the Christ of the Hills Monastery, was among those charged with sexual assault of a child and engaging in organized crime relating to the assault, Blanco County Sheriff Bill Elsbury said.

Greene, who also faces one count of sexual performance with a child, was already on probation after pleading guilty in 2000 to nine counts of indecency with a novice monk.

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, Elsbury said.

The monastery southwest of Blanco — located between San Antonio and Austin — is known for its picture of the Virgin Mary which was said to cry tears of rose oil.

However, Elsbury said that Greene admits that the icon is a fraud.

“The whole thing is going to be exposed as a sham,” Elsbury told the San Antonio Express-News for its Tuesday online editions. “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 had a marketing campaign centering on the weeping icon and in some years, tax records show, it took in as much as $750,000.

Walter Paul Christly, 44; Hugh Brian Fallon, 40; Jonathan Hitt, 45; and the monastery’s abbott, William E. Hughes, 55; were also charged in the indictments with sexual assault and organized crime.

Christly, Fallon and Hughes remained in the Blanco County Jail late Tuesday. Greene was booked and released.

A telephone message left at the monastery Tuesday night was not immediately returned.

Hitt is serving a 10-year prison term after being convicted in 1999 of indecency with the same novice monk Greene admitted abusing.

In 2002, a suit brought by the youth against the monastery was settled in 2002 for nearly $1 million.

The monastery also had troubles when in 2004, a man wanted in Florida on child molestation charges was found living there.

Before opening the Eastern Orthodox Christian monastery in 1981, Greene was known around San Antonio as “Sam the Land Man” because of his property pitches on television and radio.

Arraignment for the five is scheduled for Monday.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
AP, via DallasNews.com, USA
July 26, 2006

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday July 26, 2006.
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