|Saint Vincent College Defends Firing Priest
By Paula Reed Ward
October 1, 2010
Even though an ousted Catholic priest and professor has filed a defamation lawsuit against Saint Vincent College, school officials on Wednesday claimed in a court filing that the man never came out and denied the specific allegations against him.
In preliminary objections filed in the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas, Saint Vincent administrators say that the Rev. Mark Gruber never actually denied looking at "homosexual youth-oriented pornography" on his university-issued computer.
"[T]hrough paragraphs of elliptical evasions and misdirection, Gruber never alleges that he did not use his college-issued computer to download, view or access homosexual youth-oriented pornography," wrote Saint Vincent attorney W. Thomas McGough Jr. "In other words, he never denies, and indeed never has denied, engaging in the conduct at the center of the statements allegedly made about him."
But Father Gruber's attorney, Sharon Smith, said Thursday that those claims are false.
"We have maintained the position that not only did Father Gruber not have illegal [child] pornography, he did not look at, or view, pornography -- period," she said. "They're alleging he never denied, and he did. He did deny the allegations."
Ms. Smith will file a formal response by Oct. 19.
Father Gruber, who taught in the school's sociology and anthropology department for more than 23 years, was removed from his duties in August 2009, weeks after school officials claimed that they found homosexual pornography on his office computer.
The matter was referred to the state police, but no charges were filed.
The college cites the state police report on the matter to bolster its claim that Father Gruber never denied looking at the images.
According to the incident report, "[Gruber] was then asked if he was the one who used the computer system to look for young boys, to which he stated: 'I don't think that is a relevant question.' "
Though the officers told him it was relevant, Father Gruber refused to answer.
On Thursday, Ms. Smith said she would address that allegation when she files her next pleading.
In his lawsuit filed last month, Father Gruber alleged defamation, invasion of privacy, fraud, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, abuse of process and negligence.
He claimed that his reputation was ruined by the allegations.
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2620.
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