In a 2006 interview with Geronda Dositheos, journalist Michael J. Parker mentions the Christ of the Hills Monastery in Blanco, TX:
“Founded in 1996, Holy Archangels is less known these days than the 25-year-old Christ of the Hills monastery 5 miles southwest of Blanco.
Christ of the Hills has courted frequent publicity, with a “weeping” icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary that attracted thousands of visitors for years and with recent charges of sexual assault against several of its monks.
The Blanco monks’ only affiliation with any recognized ecclesiastical jurisdiction — the New York-based Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia — lasted from 1991 to 1999. A church spokesman said its recognition was revoked because the Blanco monks refused to abide by church discipline.
“People have always confused us with them, but we have no connection,” said Father Dositheos, 38, the Canadian-born abbot of Holy Archangels. The two groups of monks wear similar black robes and have long beards.”
[Note: In 1991, with the blessing of Bishop Hilarion (ROCOR), the Christ of the Hills Monastery/New Sarov Press published the English translation of Geronda Ephraim’s “A Call from the Holy Mountain”. In 1991, Geronda Ephraim joined ROCOR for almost a year and then went back to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Both actions were said to be done out of obedience to divine visions/voices.].
For quite awhile after this scandal broke out, Geronda Dositheos’ brotherhood in St. Antonios, TX was mistakenly assumed to be connected with Christ of the Hills Monastery. It is said that this scandal did a great disservice to Orthodox Monasticism in America:
• A confession received describes sex, drugs and deception at a former monastery in the Hill Country.
• Five monks were charged in molestation and fraud at the Christ of the Hills Monastery in Blanco County.
• Monk Hugh Fallon admitted on the day of the raid to smoking marijuana and having sex with other monks.
• Fallon also said the monastery’s weeping icon was a fake.
• Fallon wrote, “The money that came into the monastery was largely because of this hoax.”
NOTE: This scandal was used as a cautionary tale for monastics on why it is so important to go through obedience before taking on the role of a spiritual father, and why it is a huge blessing from God to have such a holy spiritual father [i.e. Geronda Ephraim]. The Abbot at Blanco literally walked off the street and appointed himself a leader without having the necessary spiritual experience. For lay people, it was used as a cautionary tale of why they shouldn’t assume that anyone with a long beard and rassa is holy or virtuous.
When this scandal was first breaking the news, many lay people had the question: “How is something like this even possible in a monastery? How can someone who has left the world and dedicated themselves to God capable of such impiety?” In the state of Texas where these horrendous crimes occurred, Geronda Dositheos and his brotherhood were constantly assumed to be associated with this monastery when they went out to do errands.
In the monasteries, when lay people asked about this scandal, they heard such responses as, “These types of things are unheard of in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. Geronda Ephraim did 12 years blind obedience to St. Joseph, became illumined and sanctified, and was given a blessing to take on spiritual children and monasteries. In turn, all of Geronda Ephraim’s abbots and abbesses have gone through a regime of blind obedience, became illumined, and were given the obedience to take on their leadership role. Abbot Alexander Greene never went through obedience or even lived in a monastery. He just walked off the street, threw on a rassa, and made a monastery.”
The homily would usually turn to the poor spiritual state of monasticism in America before Geronda Ephraim came, and how Geronda Ephraim brought an authentic monastic tradition here as opposed to the less authentic and less spiritual practices [i.e. no blind obedience, no Jesus Prayer, etc.] of the other monasteries here. “Before Geronda Ephraim came to America, the state of monasticism in this country was a sad state of affairs and somewhat spiritually sterile (other than Jordanville, of course). Two of the more ‘famous’ monasteries —St. Herman of Alaska and Holy Transfiguration — had abbots that fell into delusion, schism, and sexual improprieties. The list can go on and on. Since Geronda Ephraim started building monasteries here in 1989, the increase in spirituality among the orthodox faithful and the resuscitation of the spiritual pulse of the orthodox church has been witnessed. No longer is the Greek Orthodox Church in America a spiritually barren desert…”
And then the homily would shift to how Geronda Ephraim is one of the greatest apostles and missionaries in the history of the church, following in the footsteps of St. Kosmas Aitolos. It would be explained that this is God’s will and Geronda Ephraim is doing God’s work and nothing can stop it. It was explained as if it was like a rushing river—the bishops, priests, Masons, Jews, etc. can try to put dams up to stop the flow, but Geronda’s work will just move around these dams and continue on its course—because it is God’s will.
[Note: Last month, Bishop Constantine (Essensky) (1907-96) who lived at the Blanco monastery from 1991 until his repose in 1996, was found incorrupt and reburied in Jordanville. Bishop Constantine was one of the bishops involved in conveying the correctional consecration (“Cherothesia”) to the two Matthewite Bishops in the early 1970s at Holy Transfiguration Monastery at Boston. http://eadiocese.org/News/2014/dec/bpconstantine.en.htm
Fr. Benedict Greene
Samuel A. Greene Jr. (63) founder of a monastery that closed amid scandal over the alleged sexual abuse of novice monks and a fraudulent weeping Virgin Mary painting. Greene, who founded the monastery in 1981, pleaded guilty in 2000 to indecency and was sentenced to 10 years’ probation. He was due in court Sept. 14, where prosecutors planned to seek to have his probation revoked. His death was being investigated as a suicide. His body was found in his home on the grounds of Christ of the Hills Monastery in Blanco, Texas on September 17, 2007.
CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS