Christ of the Hills Monastery (Blanco, TX)

The now defunct Christ of the Hills Monastery (COTH) was founded by Samuel A. Greene, Jr, later known as Father Benedict Greene, in 1972.

In 1981, under the guidance of Archbishop Theodore Irtel, a bishop in the vagante Holy Orthodox Archdiocese of Vasiloupolis, Greene and the other monks, among them William Hughes, who later became the abbot the COTH and was known as Vasili Hughes, became Orthodox. The monastery also relocated to the Blanco site around the same time.

On May 7, 1985, an icon of the Mother of God at COTH reportedly began to weep myrrh in the presence of one of the monks, Father Pangratios Christley. The weeping icon drew many pilgrims to the monastery.

Around the time that the icon supposedly began weeping, Greene, along with Father Herman Podmoshensky and Metropolitan Pangratios Vrionis, began to train men from the Holy Order of MANS (HOOM) to become Orthodox priests at COTH’s New Valaam Theological Academy. However, COTH left Vasiloupolis just as the first Order converts were ready to be baptized and the priests to be ordained.

COTH operated independently for a short time, until it was received into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) in 1991. All of the monks were received as layman, and then some of them were ordained as priests by ROCOR.

In 1999 Greene and another monk from COTH, Father Jeremiah Hitt were indicted on charges that they had sexually abused an 11 year old boy who was living at the monastery. Hitt was convicted in 1999 of 8 counts of indecency with a child and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Greene pleaded guilty to the charges against him in 2000, and was sentenced to 10 years probation and fined $10,000. A civil suit was also filed on the boy’s behalf and was settled to his benefit.

Also in 1999, ROCOR ordered the monastery to disband after it refused to cooperate with an internal investigation. However, COTH also declined to disband. While ROCOR removed the group from its jurisdiction, the property was independently owned so it could not be shut down.

COTH was then reportedly received into the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev Patriachate, another vagante group. However, the bishop who purportedly received them, Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, maintains that the group, with the exception of Greene and Hitt, was received conditionally, and when the monks did not meet those conditions, he severed his connection.

Regardless, COTH continued to operate until 2006, when new charges of child sexual abuse were leveled against 5 monastics, Greene, Hitt, Hughes, Christley and Father Tikhon Fallon. Ultimately, all were convicted, with the exception of Greene, who committed suicide.

At the same time, the weeping icon was exposed as a fraud and the state of Texas put a lien on the property. In addition, another lawsuit was filed by a victim who came forward in 2006, James B. Wright, Jr., and was settled to his benefit.

In 2009,