|St. Vincent College Priest-professor Says School Defamed Him
By Paula Reed Ward
September 4, 2010
An ousted Catholic priest and professor at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe on Friday filed a defamation lawsuit against a number of administrators at the school, claiming that his reputation was ruined when he was falsely accused of viewing pornography on a campus computer.
The Rev. Mark Gruber, who taught in the school's sociology and anthropology department for more than 23 years, was removed from his duties in August 2009, just weeks after homosexual pornography was found on his office computer. His right to function as a priest also was revoked.
In the 50-page lawsuit filed in Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas, Father Gruber claims the real reasons for the allegations against him are that in April 2008 he criticized the school's then-president James Towey in an interview with a website on higher education, and in December 2008 he gave the college administration a bad evaluation when chosen to act as faculty spokesman.
Don Orlando, a spokesman for Saint Vincent, said he would have no comment.
According to the lawsuit, Father Gruber said that his computer, which was kept in a common area of his office, was used by many students. He alleges that he did not view the images and that none of the images found were criminal in nature.
Further, he reveals in the complaint that in December, a third party admitted having used Father Gruber's computer to download pornography during the week in July 2009 in question.
It goes on to say that the state police were called in to investigate additional claims of child pornography and the use of chat rooms on a campus computer, and that the third party confessed.
Even so, Father Gruber said in his complaint, school officials have never retracted their statements. He claims they gave him no due process. Instead, he said, they led the Diocese of Greensburg to revoke his right to function as a priest even after the state police cleared him of child pornography suspicions and reported that other people had access to his computer.
The school found him guilty of immoral conduct unbecoming a priest and forwarded his case to the Vatican. In addition, Saint Vincent administrators ordered him to submit to an involuntary admission to St. Luke Institute, a facility in Silver Spring, Md., "infamous for treating pedophile priests."
Included among the claims in the lawsuit are charges of defamation, invasion of privacy, fraud, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, abuse of process and negligence.
Father Gruber alleges, as part of the defamation claim, that school officials leaked information about his situation to local media outlets and also sent an e-mail to various faculty members.
As a result, the lawsuit said, "many in the community now classify Father Mark as a pedophile."
The complaint names a number of defendants, including the Rev. Douglas R. Nowicki, the archabbot and chancellor at Saint Vincent; former President Towey; and John Smetanka, the vice president for academic affairs.
Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com or 412-263-2620.
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