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Vatican Punishes Priest and Critic of Saint Vincent Officials

August 16, 2012

The long, disturbing tale of the Rev. Mark Gruber and Saint Vincent College has apparently come to an end, with a Vatican-imposed penalty barring the former faculty member from the priesthood in response to allegations -- disputed by his supporters and by civil authorities -- that he downloaded child pornography. Gruber, a longtime and widely respected monk and professor of anthropology at the Benedictine college in Pennsylvania, was one of the few campus officials who publicly criticized leaders there during a governance controversy in 2008, reportedly angering the then-president, James Towey, and the Right Rev. Douglas Nowicki, who headed the board of the Saint Vincent Archabbey.

The following fall, college officials barred him from the campus and reported him to local police, saying they had found child pornography on a computer in a common area outside his office. The charges were dropped after police concluded that no images on the computer had been of men under the age of 18, and that the computer was in a common area and many people had access to it. The following year, another Saint Vincent employee came forward and took responsibility for having downloaded the images.

Despite the lack of evidence of wrongdoing by Gruber, Saint Vincent officials continued to push for his ouster as a priest through the Vatican. In a statement Tuesday, the Saint Vincent Archabbey said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had found him guilty of "canonical crimes" of possession of child pornography, "production of materials which gravely injury good morals; abuse of the Sacrament of Confession (but not a violation of the sacramental seal); and defamation of a legitimate superior." It ordered him to live the rest of his life in prayer and penitence in a residence chosen by the Vatican, barred him from "exercising any public priestly ministry," and restricted him from any contact with anyone under the age of 18.

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Doug Lederman

Doug Lederman is editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed. He helps lead the news organization's editorial operations, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Doug speaks widely about higher education, including on C-Span and National Public Radio and at meetings and on campuses around the country, and his work has appeared in The New York Times and USA Today, among other publications. Doug was managing editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education from 1999 to 2003. Before that, Doug had worked at The Chronicle since 1986 in a variety of roles, first as an athletics reporter and editor. He has won three National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, including one in 2009 for a series of Inside Higher Ed articles he co-wrote on college rankings. He began his career as a news clerk at The New York Times. He grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and graduated in 1984 from Princeton University. Doug lives with his wife, Kate Scharff, in Bethesda, Md.

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