Did Catholic College Wrongly Accuse Priest of Downloading Child Porn?

By Kilian Melloy
Edge Boston
September 8, 2010

A Catholic College located in Latrobe, Penn., seemingly took revenge on a faculty member by barring him from teaching and making statements that he had downloaded child pornography--even though the images on a shared computer were not of children, and even though another individual told the administration that he, and not the accused, had downloaded the material.

The accusations leveled by officials of Saint Vincent College at Rev. Mark Gruber, a faculty member for 23 years--and the lawsuit that the school now faces from Gruber, who says that he was deliberately and systematically defamed by the school--may be rooted in criticism that Gruber, along with three-quarters of the faculty, made regarding the way the school's then-president, H. James Towey, a former Bush administration official in charge of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, had handled college affairs, media reports indicated.

Inside Higher Education noted in an April 22, 2008, article that the faculty and a number of students had submitted letters detailing concerns and criticisms regarding Towey.

"The mechanics of the university are grinding to a halt," Gruber told Inside Higher Education in the article. Gruber was one of only a few faculty members and administrators who ventured to allow his name to be used in the article along with his comments; 14 others were also interviewed, but most of them refrained from allowing the article to quote them.

Their hesitance may well have been warranted, given what befell Rev. Gruber next. College officials searched a computer located outside his office--a computer used by a number of people--and, upon finding pornographic images, accused Gruber of downloading them. The college also claimed that the images were of underage children, and contacted the Vatican with their accusations against Gruber. The professor was thrown off campus and relieved of his teaching duties based on those accusations.

But the college's claims had two major flaws: police investigators determined that the material on the computer, while pornographic in nature, did not depict children, but rather adult males. Moreover, another person in the employ of the college had come forward to college officials to say that he, and not Gruber, had downloaded the material--none of which slowed the college in its punitive actions against Gruber, media sources, including a Sept. 7 Gawker article, said.

The man who had claimed responsibility with college officials then went to the police. After the man was interviewed twice by investigators, the police were satisfied that he was, indeed, the person responsible for the downloaded material, Inside higher Education reported in a Sept. 7 follow-up article.

Rev. Gruber brought suit against Saint Vincent College on Sept. 3. "The Defendants have intentionally, recklessly and/or negligently falsely disclosed and/or misrepresented facts and concealed and omitted others to allow the world to believe that Father Mark is a child molester and/or pedophile," the suit says.

Neither college officials nor officials at the Catholic abbey with which the college is affiliated would comment to the press on the matter of the lawsuit, reported Inside Higher Education. Nor have school and abbey officials communicated vital information to Rev. Gruber:

"To this day, Saint Vincent officials have not told Father Mark and his lawyer that another person had come forward to accept responsibility for downloading pornography on his computer; the priest learned about the admission only in June, when his lawyer requested and received a report from the Pennsylvania State Police that laid out state troopers' own continuing investigation into the situation involving Father Mark," the Inside Higher Education Article stated.

Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.