Monks accuser reaches $1 million settlement with monastery

Author: Patrick George
Date Published: 06/01/2007

Man who says monks molested him will try to force sale of their Blanco County land.

A former novice monk who says he was molested at a Blanco County monastery has reached a $1 million settlement with the monastery.

The attorney for the monks’ accuser, James Wright Jr., says the only way Wright is likely to get his money is through the sale of the 105-acre site the monks called home.

Wright lived at Christ of the Hills monastery from 1998 to 1999 when he was 15 after his parents sent him there because he was acting out. He claims he was sexually abused by three of the monks there: monastery founder Samuel Greene Jr. and monks William Edward Hughes and Walter Paul Christley.

Wright sued and reached a settlement for about $500,000 in December with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia; the nonprofit Ecumenical Monks Inc., which owns the monastery’s land a few miles outside of Blanco; Greene; and Hughes.

Ecumenical Monks settled with Wright on Wednesday.

“They don’t have $1 million,” said Wright’s attorney, Mark Long. But Long said the monks’ land is valued between $700,000 and $750,000, and he and his client will attempt to acquire and sell the property.

“We wanted to make sure the settlement amount exceeded the value of the land so we could acquire the property,” Long said.

Michael W. White, a San Antonio attorney representing Greene, said Wednesday’s settlement was a better option than his clients facing a civil trial.

“Neither side is admitting right or wrong,” White said. “This was a way to cut our losses instead of risking going to trial.”

Greene, a former real estate salesman and boys’ group home supervisor, founded Christ of the Hills as a Russian Orthodox monastery in 1981. The black-robed monks took in teenagers as novices and attracted thousands of visitors who came to see a Virgin Mary icon that the monks said wept tears of myrrh; a monk later told authorities the monks faked the tears using an eyedropper.

The church broke ties with the monastery in 1999 after an earlier criminal investigation into a 13-year-old boy’s claim of sexual abuse by Greene and monk Jonathan Hitt. Greene was sentenced to 10 years of probation, and Hitt received a 10-year prison sentence. Last summer, five of the monks – Christley, Greene, Hitt, Hughes and Hugh Brian Fallon – were indicted on charges of sexual assault of a minor and engaging in organized crime.

White said the monks are out on bail while their criminal cases are pending.

“They haven’t had much in the way of the monastic life,” White said.