The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Fired priest may have been protecting seal of confession

Last month, I posted the story of a priest suing his bishop, after being falsely accused and fired.

Now, there’s another twist in the story:

The dramatic case of the monk who filed a defamation suit against St. Vincent College for removing him from ministry after pornography was discovered on his computer has an even more dramatic subplot.

A former student of the Rev. Mark Gruber has told both state police and canonical investigators that he downloaded pornography on the priest’s computer. He says that Father Gruber knew that, but couldn’t say so because he had sacramentally confessed that sin to the priest before the pornography was discovered. Priests are forbidden to reveal the contents of a confession under any circumstance.


But the former student has spoken with Father Gruber’s canon lawyers, state police and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Father Gruber’s suit says that on Dec. 15, the young man gave a sworn statement to the priest’s canon lawyers, for the case that his Benedictine superior filed against him in Rome. He said he had downloaded pornography, and then confessed doing so.

The young man testified that “Father Mark has protected the seal of confession admirably even to the point of losing his job, his priestly faculties and allowing his reputation to be maligned.”

The college’s response includes a state police report on an April 20 interview with the same young man. Troopers, who sought him out after someone from the archabbey showed them his canonical statement, said he provided information that only someone who had downloaded certain images on Father Gruber’s computer should know.


But the college’s attorney says that if the young man’s account is true, it’s not the whole story.

“An admission by another person that they were responsible for some of the pornography on the computer does not negate Father Gruber’s responsibility for misuse of the computer,” said W. Thomas McGough Jr. of the Reed Smith law firm.

There’s much more at the link.

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posted October 4, 2010 at 9:11 pm

“An admission by another person that they were responsible for some of the pornography on the computer does not negate Father Gruber’s responsibility for misuse of the computer,” said W. Thomas McGough Jr. of the Reed Smith law firm.
I think that statement alone sums up the situation: This is a witch-hunt against Father Gruber. This is precisely why it is so very dangerous to let religious fanatics have unlimited power.
I don’t think I’d have Father Gruber’s strength of will not to break the seal under such circumstances, he is obviously a man of great character.

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posted October 4, 2010 at 10:41 pm

I do not see why this could not be sorted out.
Fr. Gruber can be re-instated without recrimmination from either side.

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posted October 5, 2010 at 5:49 am

Unfortunately, the harm done won’t just evaporate quite as easily. Somebody seized the opportunity to attack him and ran with it.
I spent quite a few years of my life in academia, this will almost certainly not have been an isolated incident.
Unless the background is carefully examined and the willful intent to harm Father Gruber brought home to the person or those who perpetrated this, such nastiness will continue.

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posted October 5, 2010 at 11:21 am

It also shows once again how, every since the Boston revelations and the Dallas conference, bishops (or any church authority such as abbotts in this case I suppose)are pitted against their brother clergy. The “Gospel” of the Legal System and Economics has supplanted Christ’s Gospel of grace and metanoia in too many dioceses and church institutions. But then the USCCB has brought this upon themselves by establishing an office of the name: Protection of Children. They declare publicly that children need to be protected from the Church and then lament the public attitude towards clergy that they themselves promote. Yeah, you can sense sour grapes here…I have never been accused and cannot be for I am clean but I know too many who have been accused without merit, have been cleared officially but their names are forever sullied in the minds of many.

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Deacon Edward Morris

posted October 6, 2010 at 8:09 am

Has anyone considered the fact that Father Gruber had child porn on his computer? It is a criminal act punishable by civil law and a very serious Canonical Violation to possess and or view child porn. He is using his “Priestly” ministry as a cover for an activity which may very well send him to jail. Father has not shown courage but rather an arrogance towards the Church’s Law and Civil authorities. Since he is suing for damages let Father Gruber consider the damages he has inflicted on the young boys who were used to produce the sexually explicit material found on his computer.
Simply put, Father Gruber should be removed permanently from ministry for participating in the sexual abuse and exploitation of young boys by possessing and viewing Child pornography on his computer. (A fact established by means of the forensic analysis of his computer)
It makes me sick in the stomach to see Gruber painted out as some kind of saint. The man is a sleaze bag.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted October 6, 2010 at 8:51 am

Careful. Read the accounts closely. In Ann Rodgers’ report, there is no mention of CHILD pornography. And according to this account: “Police did not find that the material fit the criteria of child pornography, and no charges were filed. But college officials determined the pictures were unbecoming of a priest and removed him from the ministry in August 2009.”

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posted October 8, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Full disclosure: I have met Fr. Gruber, and have read some of his writings.
First off, this was not about child pornography. Fr. Gruber was not arrested, but has had his faculties removed.
Second, this was not a private laptop. This was a ‘work computer’ issued by the college, sitting in a room right outside Fr. Gruber’s office. It was easily accessible to a good number of people.
Finally, Fr. Gruber had recently criticized the college administration for trying to weaken the college’s Catholic identity, and thus was ‘persona non grata’ with some of the school’s higher-ups. For them, this was a golden opportunity to completely discredit and shame him.
Does it prove his innocence ? No, but it makes the case against him look pretty flimsy.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted October 8, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Thank you for that necessary clarification and background, Donna.

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posted October 8, 2010 at 1:58 pm

I hope that Fr Gruber, if innocent, is restored to ministry.
I also praise him for protecting the seal of confession if that be the case.

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