Monks Plead Not Guilty to Sex Charges

JOHNSON CITY, Texas Jul 31, 2006 (AP)— Four monks pleaded not guilty to charges alleging a boy was sexually assaulted at a Texas monastery that draws thousands of visitors every year, officials said Monday.

Authorities raided the Christ of the Hills Monastery last week in search of “instruments of child abuse,” Blanco County District Attorney Sam Oatman said.

The four monks, plus another serving a 10-year prison sentence for indecency with a minor, were charged after a young man claimed he had been assaulted at the monastery beginning in 1993, when he was a teenager. Oatman said another accuser has come forward, and others could follow.

Three of the monks appeared in court in shackles and orange prison jumpsuits Monday and entered not guilty pleas to charges of sexual assault of a child and organized criminal activity.

Monastery founder Samuel Greene, 61, who has health problems related to a car accident, was not in court but has pleaded not guilty to those charges as well as one count of sexual performance of a child, said his attorney, Michael W. White.

“He’s upset,” White said of his client. “You can just imagine what it’s like to be accused.”

The fifth indicted monk, Jonathan Hitt, 45, was convicted in 1999 of indecency with a 14-year-old novice monk at the Eastern Orthodox Christian monastery. Oatman said Hitt has not entered a plea on the new charges.

The others, Walter Christley, who turns 45 Tuesday; Hugh Fallon, 40; and William Hughes, 55, remained in custody and did not yet have lawyers.

Greene pleaded guilty six years ago to indecency with the same novice monk from the Hitt case and was sentenced to 10 years’ probation.

Oatman said charges also are possible with regard to the monastery’s main attraction: an image of the Virgin Mary that has been said to cry tears of myrrh, seen as a sign of divine intervention. The icon has brought in thousands of visitors and their donations to the monastery between Austin and San Antonio.

Father Thomas Flower, of the Blessed Martin de Porres Urban Mission in San Antonio, said he is taking care of the monastery for now. Flower said he used to travel with a monk who was once affiliated with the monastery.

“He would have told me if things like that were going on,” Flower said.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
AP, via ABC News, USA
July 31, 2006
Elizabeth White

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday August 2, 2006.
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