By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A Buffalo man who turned over $1.6 million to a monastery of monks he believed to be part of the Benedictine Order is now suing for his money back after realizing they were not part of the official Church order.
BuffaloNews.com is reporting that Eric E. Hoyle entered the Most Holy Family Monastery in rural Fillmore, New York in 2005 expecting to become a monk in the Order of St. Benedict. In doing so, the 25 year-old former Maryland school teacher turned over his assets, which totaled $1.6 million. However, after spending several years in the monastery, he came to the realization that these were not officially recognized monks of the Benedictine Order.
Founded by Brother Joseph Natale, the community is considered to be a traditionalist fringe group of Catholics who believe the Church went astray after Vatican II.
According to their website, they consider Pope Benedict XVI to be an “anti-pope” and that Catholics should not attend any post-Vatican II Masses. If the “New Mass” is the only one available, a Catholic is permitted to miss Mass. The sect also views all priests not ordained in the traditional Latin rite to be invalid. They also believe that in order to receive any Sacraments in the Church, a person must first reject Vatican II and commit to never attending a “New Mass” again. They must also believe that there is no salvation outside the Church.
Hoyle became disenchanted and left the community, and is now suing for his money back. He claims the superiors of the monastery, Brothers Frederick and Robert Dimond, defrauded him of his fortune because he did not learn until after he transferred his wealth that the community was not affiliated with the authentic Benedictine Order.
“The issue is whether or not these guys are really Benedictine monks,” said K. Wade Eaton, Hoyle’s lawyer, in an interview with Buffalo News.
Although he declined further comment, the court papers, which were filed in the U.S. District Court, Western District of New York, also allege that the Dimonds are running a racketeering scheme through their website which is defrauding the public through mailings and other publications.
The Dimond’s attorney, Charles Ritter, claims Hoyle knew what he was doing when he joined the monastery and donated his life’s earnings.
“It’s not like they went and found him. He went out and found them,” Ritter said. “They didn’t tell him he had to give them everything. It was a decision he made . . . He knew what he was doing. He was not misled. He was very well read and up to speed on what their beliefs were.”
The Dimonds claim that the courts and government have no say in determining who exactly is a Benedictine monk.
“It’s a First Amendment right that we can profess to be Benedictines, and we believe we are,” says Robert Dimond, in an audio recording on the monastery’s Web site. “The state can’t determine that, the government can’t determine that. It can’t rule on who is or who is not a Benedictine, just like it can’t determine what is a true church or define what a church is, OK. It doesn’t get entangled in those religious disputes.”
The Dimonds have responded by filing their own lawsuit against Hoyle in which they accuse him of stealing proprietary information. They are asking for $5 million in damages.
Kevin A. Keenan, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, has confirmed that the monastery is not affiliated with either the diocese or the Church.
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