Monastery, group settle sex suit for $1 million

Author: Zeke MacCormack
Date Published: 05/30/2007

JOHNSON CITY – A former novice monk who claimed he was molested in the late 1990s at the Christ of the Hills Monastery outside Blanco will get $1 million in a settlement filed Wednesday. The agreement resolves a 2006 civil suit in which James B. Wright Jr. accused the monastery’s founder, Sam A. Greene Jr., and Greene followers William Hughes and Walter Christley of abuse.

Criminal charges remain against those three monks and two other followers of Greene, and the state is trying to seize the 105-acre site.

Wright, who lives in the Houston area, also had sued the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which in 1991 admitted Greene’s group as clergy but severed ties in 1999.

Wright reached a confidential settlement with the New York-based religious group in December, according to its attorney, Lin Hughes of Austin, who said Greene duped her clients into affiliating with his monastery.

In the judgment entered Wednesday, State District Judge Dan Mills ordered that Wright recover $1 million from the monastery and Ecumenical Monks Inc., the nonprofit group that runs the monastery.

There is no indication in the judge’s order about where the money will come from.

Wright’s attorney, Mark Long, couldn’t be reached for comment.

When the suit was filed last year, Long said the monastery appeared to be ”a place set up to scam people and for some of the monks to recruit young people to molest. It’s horrible.”

No trial date has been set for the monks jailed last July when
authorities raided the monastery and seized its famed weeping icon, a painting said to cry but later acknowledged to be a fake.

The arrests marked the second round of civil and criminal proceedings for alleged sexual abuse at the monastery.

In 2000, Greene pled guilty to indecency with a novice monk and was sentenced to 10 years probation. The victim later won about $1 million in a civil suit.

The latest criminal charges stem from statements Greene reportedly made to his probation officer that implicated him and some of his followers in sexual misconduct.

Indictments were returned last July on charges of sexual assault of a child/organized crime against Greene, who’s known as ”Father Benedict,” Hugh Fallon, Jonathan Hitt; Christley and Hughes.

Greene also was charged with sexual performance by a child.

In January, more charges were brought against Greene, Christley and Hughes based on the complaints by Wright.

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.

All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty and are free on bond, except Hitt, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1999 after he was convicted of indecency with the same youth who’s complaint put Greene on probation.

Neither Greene nor his attorneys could be reached for comment.