Insider’s statement accuses Blanco monks

Author: Zeke MacCormack
Date Published: 04/08/2007

BLANCO – An insider’s account of life at the Christ of the Hills Monastery bolsters claims that its monks bilked worshippers, had sex with each other and used illegal drugs. That troubling portrait is painted in a recently disclosed statement by Hugh
Fallon, one of five monks awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing youngsters at the monastery in the 1990s.

”There was present in the monastery a ‘group’ often referred to as the ‘inner circle’ wich (sic) engaged in oral sex and pot smoking,” Fallon wrote July 25, the day local, state and federal authorities raided the hilltop site.

The account by the monk also called ”Father Tihkon” also says the monastery’s famed ”weeping icon” – a painting of the Virgin Mary said to cry tears of myrrh – was a fraud perpetrated with oil applied with an eyedropper.

Fallon’s five-page handwritten statement to police was part of a March 19 order by District Judge Dan Mills that denied defense motions to suppress Fallon’s account and the search warrant executed on the religious premises.

The original indictment had charges of sexual assault of a child/organized crime related to the alleged assaults against five monks, including Sam A. Greene Jr., the monastery’s founder and spiritual leader, known as ”Father Benedict.” Also indicted were Fallon; Jonathan Hitt; Walter Christley, also known as ”Father Pangratios”; and William Hughes, the monastery’s abbot, who goes by ”Father Vasili.”

Greene also was charged with sexual performance by a child.

In January, more charges were brought against Greene, Christley and Hughes.

Christley was indicted on charges of sexual assault of a child and sexual assault of a child/organized crime over alleged incidents from Dec. 1, 1998. Hughes and Greene were indicted on charges of sexual assault of a child/organized crime for the same alleged incident.

These days, the painting that once drew thousands of visitors monthly has been seized, and the monastery’s entrance is blocked by a crude fence fashioned of brush and rock that bears a sign that reads ”Keep Out.”

The state is trying to seize the 105-acre site owned by Ecumenical Monks Inc., calling it ”contraband” used in the commission of money laundering, theft, fraud and child molestation.

Revelations about the icon led officials to talk last summer of federal mail fraud charges, but Daryl Fields of the U.S. attorney’s office, said, ”We’re simply deferring any action until the state completes its cases.”

All the defendants are free on bond except Hitt, who is serving a 10-year sentence returned in 1999 on a charge of indecency with a child based on a novice monk’s complaint.

In 2000, Greene pleaded guilty to the same charge, based on an outcry by the same boy, and was sentenced to 10 years of probation.

Authorities said the latest charges arose from Greene’s bid to clear his conscience – after failing a polygraph test – by recounting past misdeeds at the behest of his probation officer.

Former followers Greene allegedly named as victims were then located, officials said, and some offenses were confirmed.

”We’re very much looking forward for justice to be done and to putting an end to all of the criminal acts that took place as a result of the actions of these men,” Assistant District Attorney Cheryl Nelson said.

Greene’s trial was initially set for today in Johnson City, but the proceedings have been postponed until the Department of Public Safety crime lab finishes examining computers seized from the monastery, which is 5 miles southwest of Blanco.

Greene’s attorney, Mark Stevens, has filed motions seeking to suppress statements to probation officers, treatment providers and other officials.

”As a probationer receiving sex offender treatment, Mr. Greene is ordered to attend therapy, and to truthfully answer all questions put to him,” said Stevens in a motion filed Feb 23. ”The state now attempts to use his answers, made during the course of therapy, and compelled by the threat of revocation, to convict him of a crime and send him to prison.”

In Judge Mills’ ruling denying the motion to suppress Fallon’s statement, he said Fallon voluntarily waived his right to remain silent and offered to talk to investigators about an hour after police raided the monastery.

In his account, Fallon said he was drawn to the monastery in 1991 after reading reports about the weeping icon.

When Greene later confided that the icon was a fraud, Fallon wrote, ”I was shocked and had tremendous inner conflict.”

Fallon said he later found himself printing fliers that espoused the icon’s holiness, while another monk put ”tears” of lamp oil on cotton balls that were mailed to unsuspecting believers.

”I understand that the money that came into the monastery was largely because of this hoax,” Fallon said in his statement. ”I regret and apologize for my complicity.”

He said Greene, 62, encouraged sexual encounters among his flock and participated.

”When people were having problems, Sam Green (sic) would offer marijuana and back rubs and, very slowly, sex,” Fallon wrote.

At Greene’s trailer near the monastery last week, a monk clad in a black robe and holding an open Bible in hand answered the door and said, ”We don’t want to talk.”

Greene’s clan followed Eastern Orthodox traditions but has not been affiliated with any denomination since 1999, when an autonomous U.S.-based branch of the Russian Orthodox Church cut its ties with the monks.