State to seize monastery

State to seize monastery

The State of Texas is trying to seize the property of a monastery in the San Antonio area, which sounds like a shocking violation of the separation of church and state until you read the rest of the story.

The state is trying to seize Christ of the Hills Monastery, claiming in court filings that the religious enclave is “contraband” because it was used in the commission of money laundering, theft, fraud and child molestation offenses.

The monastery is not connected to the Catholic Church. In fact, it is owned by Ecumenical Monks, Inc., a nonprofit formed in 1972.

The monastery followed Eastern Orthodox traditions but has not been affiliated with any denomination since 1999, when an autonomous U.S.-based branch of the Russian Orthodox Church cut its ties with the monks there.

District Attorney Sam Oatman’s bid to take the property follows the July 25 arrests of Greene, also known as Father Benedict, and four followers on charges of sexual assault of a minor and engaging in organized crime related to the alleged assaults.

The monastery itself was founded in 1982 and was the site of many pilgrimages in the early years, especially after a painting of the Virgin Mary allegedly began to cry tears of oil in 1985. In reality, the founder admitted it was all a fake, designed to pull in nearly $750,000 in annual donations at its peak.

As for the property seizure, I’m not opposed to the idea. The monastery appears to be a criminal enterprise to commit fraud and to cover up abuse of children. Yet is there a precedent being set here? Will some enterprising prosecutor use the case to try to seize parishes and other property donated by lay Catholics under the same pretenses?

Also, look through the article for the unspoken taboo word. Yep, that’s right: not one explicit mention of homosexuality despite the fact that they were abusing “novice monks” as well as minors. My guess is that novices would not be under the age of 13, making this something other than pedophilia.

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  • The icon wasn’t shedding oil when I visited there a few years back. 

    There were some not-so-subtle clues that the whole thing was phony: the one monk at the place that day told me that nobody had access to the icon case but the founder.  Also, the icon had stopped shedding its tears a few months earlier: that happened to coincide with the time the founder was put on trial.

    Of course, it makes sense that our Lady would weep at the crimes committed there and cease when the culprit was caught.

  • if Greene was involved with HOOM he was swimming in murky water.

    I don’t know about that: they ended up better off than he did!