Monastery founder pleads guilty;Sex abuse admitted

Author: Zeke MacCormack
Date Published: 02/24/2000

JOHNSON CITY – A land broker who became the spiritual leader of a religious enclave near Blanco pleaded guilty Wednesday to indecency with a young boy at Christ of the Hills Monastery in 1997.

Samuel A. Greene Jr., also known as Father Benedict, was placed on 10 years probation and fined $10,000.

The plea agreement stemmed from Greene’s failing health and the victim’s desire to put the episode behind him, District Attorney Sam Oatman said.

Seated in a wheelchair, the defendant admitted molesting the boy, who sat quietly on the other side of the court room.

Greene, 56, is the second monk convicted as the result of complaints by the boy, now 14, that he was abused while a novice monk at the monastery.

Jonathan A. Hitt, also called Father Jeremiah, was sentenced to 10 years in prison last October after being found guilty of indecency.

The cases have strained already uneasy relations with some neighbors of the monastery that is famous for a picture of the Virgin Mary that is said to weep tears of myrrh.

“I think they’re fake and I don’t trust any of them,” said James Hughes, 41, of Blanco.

Convenience store clerk Connie West said Greene’s land dealings raised more hackles than his association with the monastery.

“Some of the monks come in here, and they are very, very nice, but people don’t like Sam Greene,” she said.

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, with which the monastery was affiliated, has severed relations with Christ of the Hills.

“Many of the goings-on out there are inconsistent with a monastic lifestyle,” prosecutor Tom Cloudt said at the trial of Hitt, 38.

Greene and the youth declined comment after the sentencing,

Before founding the monastery in 1970, Greene was famous around San Antonio for his land sale advertisements on radio and television.

About a dozen monks live at the monastery that attracts numerous visitors from Mexico and Central America.

Defenders of Greene and Hitt say the allegations against them were concocted by the boy and his mother to support their $60 million lawsuit against the monastery.

“I know he’s not guilty,” said Father Tom Flower, a friend of Greene.

Greene faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted on any of the nine counts of indecency with a child.

Because he was placed on deferred adjudication Wednesday, Greene still could receive the maximum sentence if he violates the terms of his probation.

“We’re going to try and get this resolved today because I’m really fearful, and the family is too, that we’ll never get this case to trial because of his health,” Oatman said Wednesday morning.

He said the victim and his mother were apprised of plea negotiations, but did not have veto authority.

“It’s my understanding that this young victim has just made leaps and bounds in recovery since the last trial, so he may be satisfied to get on with his life,” Oatman said. “The most important thing to victims sometimes is not to get pen time, but to get the offender to admit what they did.”

The plea came two weeks after Greene’s trial was postponed because of ill health.

zmaccormack@express-news.net