St. Vincent Priest to Sue for Slander

By Richard Gazarik
The Tribune-Review
July 16, 2010

A suspended St. Vincent College professor and priest filed notice Thursday in Westmoreland County that he intends to sue a series of diocesan, college and church officials for slander, libel and defamation.

The Rev. Mark Gruber, 54, filed a writ of summons, which is formal notice of his intention to sue, in connection with last year's state police investigation of him for allegedly using a college computer to access child pornography.

Gruber, who is a Benedictine monk and a tenured professor of anthropology, named as defendants Archabbot Douglas Nowicki, head of the archabbey; Greensburg Bishop Lawrence Brandt; former college President H. James Towey; academic dean John Smetanka; Dr. Gary Quinlivan, dean of the McKenna Business School; public relations director Don Orlando and Eddie Dejthai, chief information officer.

State police found that the computer, located in a seminar room that could be accessed by others, was used to access websites in Russia and the Czech Republic where child pornography can be viewed. Photos and videos of nude males had been downloaded to the computer, but police said the subjects appeared to be older than 18.

Investigators said they found no evidence of a crime, and Gruber never was charged. "Due to a lack of evidence that a crime has occurred, this investigation (is) to be closed," read the state police report.

However, Gruber was suspended from his duties by Brandt and Nowicki when the investigation began in July 2009 and has not been able to teach, celebrate Mass, hear confessions or participate in other church functions. He has not been reinstated to his duties, according to court records.

In May, Gruber filed a petition in Westmoreland County court seeking a subpoena for all state police reports so his attorney could begin discovery proceedings as part of a potential lawsuit.

Attorney Sharon Smith, who represents Gruber, said the priest "understands that to facilitate reinstatement of his priestly and faculty appointments, he must produce the reports that cleared him of wrongdoing."

Orlando, diocese spokesman Jerry Zufelt and Kim Metzer of St. Vincent Archabbey all declined to comment.


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