Founder of Scandal – Mired Monastery Dies

BLANCO, Texas (AP) — Samuel A. Greene Jr., the founder of a monastery that closed amid scandal over the alleged sexual abuse of novice monks and a fraudulent weeping Virgin Mary painting, has died. He was 63.

Greene’s death was being investigated as a suicide, but officials were waiting for autopsy results before ruling on the cause of death. Greene’s body was found Monday morning in his home on the grounds of Christ of the Hills Monastery.

The monastery was allied with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia from 1991 to 1999, but the church broke ties with the monastery when allegations surfaced of indecency by Greene with a juvenile novice monk.

Greene, who founded the monastery in 1981, pleaded guilty in 2000 to indecency and was sentenced to 10 years probation. In 2006, Greene told his probation officer in a secretly taped interview that he had sexual contact with boys over a 30-year period starting in the 1970s.

Greene also reportedly confirmed that the monastery’s weeping painting was fake. Authorities seized the icon, which was said to cry tears of myrrh, a sign of divine intervention. It had drawn thousands of visitors, and their donations, to the area.

The interview also prompted authorities to file child sexual assault and organized crime charges against Greene and four other monks in July 2006. Greene maintained his innocence and was released on his own recognizance because of health problems.

Greene was due Friday in court, where prosecutors planned to seek to have his probation revoked. Assistant District Attorney Cheryl Nelson said she would have asked the judge to sentence him to the maximum 20-year term on each of his nine indecency counts.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday September 18, 2007.
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