Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Pseudodox Monastery Busted for Molestation...Again

Last Monday, heroic Texas law enforcement officers raided the Christ of the Hills "monastery" in Blanco, Texas, home of a fraudulent "weeping icon." After a reported confession by the Pseudodox group's founder, Samuel A. ("Fr. Benedict") Greene, the 35 officers charged several Blanco "monks" with sexual assault and organized crime. In addition to prior acknowledged child molestors Greene and Jonathan ("Fr. Jeremiah") Hitt:

charged Monday was the monastery's abbot, William E. Hughes, 55, aka Father Vasili; Walter P. Christley, 44, aka Father Pangratios; and Hugh Brian Fallon, 40, aka Father Tihkon; said [Blanco County Sherriff Bill] Elsbury.

"A1 [one of the boys - BJ] in his recorded statement described actual orgy situations," says the affidavit, referring to the complainant....

The boys in question were young novices staying at the monastery in the 1990s, one of them 14-years-old at the time. Elsbury says Greene confessed to a 30-year history of pederasty.

The organized crime charge stems from the fact that officers say Greene also admitted the monastery's "weeping icon" was a fraud, part of a marketing plan that netted the accused up to $750,000 a year:

Besides naming the two boys tracked down by investigators, Elsbury said Greene confirmed suspicions that the picture of the Virgin Mary that was said to weep tears of rose oil was a fake.

"The whole thing is going to be exposed as a sham," the sheriff said. "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."

Police say they also confiscated child pornography from the premises. See revolting mug shots of the accused here.

Allegations had flown since the group's founding -- in hindsight, with much merit -- but initial charges were filed against Greene and Hitt in 1999; Elsbury says the initial investigation has never closed, and he expects to find yet more Blanco victims. Despite all this, some faithful still stand beside them in disbelief. (As Lincoln said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time....")

Although Greene is said to have admitted all this to his probation officer, he had the gall to plead not guilty at his arraignment yesterday, along with all his co-defendants. According to to this story, today is William "Fr. Pangratios" Christley's 45th birthday; I hope this year, he gets justice.

What are the lessons to be learned from this seven-year-long sordid tale, whether a conviction follows this instance or not? For one, never visit, recommend, or allow others to visit monasteries or clerics with a history of child molestation. Those who brought others to a monastery known to house convicted (or even accused) child molestors, or failed to warn others about it, have no place in any position of spiritual authority within the Orthodox Church. Second, although there are undoubtedly many good souls involved with it, the unregulated nature of the episcopoi vagante movement attracts predators (x2), fakirs, the mentally ill (x2), self-promoters (x2), and con men -- as Peter Anson pointed out decades ago. Finally, the monastery achieved such prominence because of its (fraudulent) "weeping icon," which illustrates the easily exploited human yearning for "spooky religion." We do well to divest ourselves of the search for "signs and wonders" -- which Christ condemned as signs of weak faith and selfishness feigning piety -- and cultivate a hearty love for the "mundane" worship of the local canonical Orthodox Church. It's far from foolproof, but the Church has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, something probably lacking at "Christ of the Hills" in Blanco.



Blogger Huw Raphael said...

Any idea what jurisdiction they were in? The best I could find in the media reported they were in ROCOR.

12:06 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Hi Huw,

Before and after they were in ROCOR (1991-9), they were under a convicted child molestor named Demetrios ("Bishop Pangratios") Vrionis of the "Archdiocese of Vasilopoulos." I have the whole story here: http://westernorthodox.blogspot.com/2006/08/blanco-yes-they-are-vagantes.html

God bless,

6:00 PM  

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