Monkish Monkey-Business

In 1972, Sam Greene made a life-changing decision. He founded a religious order for religious and laypersons wishing to live monastic lives. Sam let his beard grow and managed to affiliate his monastery with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Now calling himself Father Benedict, in 1981 Greene gathered a few fellows of like mind within the confines of Christ of the Hills Monastery in the beautiful Texas Hill Country and, ostensibly, the group settled into the contemplative life.

The monastery became something of a tourist attraction, due primarily to a wondrous icon of a Pagan version of the Virgin Mary. The idol was reported to weep tears of oil, a phenomenon dear to superstitious Catholics and others. As the word of the teary-eyed idol spread, so also did the fame and reputed holiness of the monastery increase.

Christ of the Hills Monastery opened near Blanco in 1981 and is best known for its icon of the Virgin Mary that is said to weep tears of oil.--Joshunda Sanders, New sex allegations against Blanco monastery, July 26, 2006 © Austin American-Statesman

Now and then parents seriously lacking in discernment would bring male children to be admitted to the monastery population as acolytes. A few years ago, news media reported that Father Benedict and others of the more senior population of that monastery had been sexually abusing the youngsters made conveniently available to them.

Seven years ago, an investigation headed by [Bill] Elsbury, the Blanco County sheriff, had brought camera crews to the hilltop monastery when its founder and another monk were accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy.--Miguel Liscano, Sheriff says quiet monastery hid dark secrets, © July 27, 2006 Austin American-Statesman 

In 2000, Father Benedict pleaded guilty to indecency with a child and was sentenced to 10 years probation. Two years later, the monastery agreed to a million-dollar out-of-court settlement.

Father Jeremiah went to prison. Father Benedict got 10 years of probation and returned to the monastery, where the monks carried on and the pilgrims continued to visit the weeping icon of the Virgin MaryIbid

Now, it seems clear that pedophile Sam and some of his cronies didn't get the message that messing around with boys and teenagers is not an approved pastime in this part of Texas.

The founder of Christ of the Hills Monastery in Blanco County and three other monks were arrested Tuesday on charges of sexual assault of a child and organized crime, according to the Blanco County sheriff's office---Joshunda Sanders, Op. cit.

In an interview taped by his probation officer, Sam Greene admitted that he had been having sex with boys for over 30 years. He implicated four of his fellow monks, claiming they also had been having sex with boys. One might ask why men supposedly consecrated to holy living would engage in such unnatural and perverse activities. The pedophile explained:

Greene told his probation officer that the boys enjoyed the sexual activity and that he was "actually helping to guide and direct otherwise troubled youth," the documents said. Greene also said he'd been able to avoid criminal charges for years because "God was on his side," the documents said.—Miguel Liscano, Op. cit.

Now that the “holy men” of Christ of the Hills Monastery are in the hands of the legal system, let us examine how these cloistered men managed to pay the bills and keep food on the table. The weeping icon seems to have been a money magnet, attracting visitors and dollars to the remote monastery site.

And they welcomed visitors by the thousands, pilgrims drawn by stories of the Virgin Mary icon that wept tears of myrrh, a fragrant oil. The monks promoted the icon in mailings and on a Web site, claiming that the tears had cured people of cancer and other illnesses. . .

The monastery is a few miles from town, at the end of a dirt road that opens onto two temples, living quarters, a cemetery and a meeting hall. It was empty Wednesday, and the Virgin Mary was gone, seized by authorities as evidence.

Next to the lectern it had stood upon was a donation box with $7 in it and prayer candles that sold for $1. Elsbury said the monks would also sell cotton balls they said were stained with the Virgin's tears: $3 each. . .

"It's just a scam," Elsbury said. "And they bilked many people out of money under false pretenses, playing with peoples' emotions.--Ibid.

No doubt, a few who read this will choose to ignore the allegations of wrongdoing or fraud involving the weeping idol. Perhaps these words will cause them to re-examine their position:

[Sheriff] Elsbury said that Greene admits the icon is a fraud.  

"The whole thing is going to be exposed as a sham," he told the Express-News. "They just put the tear drops on there themselves and then got all these people making donations trying to get some kind of miracle cure."—Joshunda Sanders, Op. cit.

It astonishes me that some people look for miracles by worshipping idols, shadows on walls, ephemeral visitors seen only by so-called visionaries, etc., when the Author of Miracles has made Himself known to us in the Scriptures and by indwelling the saints.

Looking for healing or some other miracle? Look to God, not to fantasy.

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