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Defrocked priest says he'll appeal to pope

| Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 11:47 p.m.
Lindsay Dill | Tribune-Review
Mark Gruber is photographed in front of Leander Hall Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at the St. Vincent Seminary. Gruber has been relieved of his duties as a priest and a monk in the Benedictine order.

A defrocked priest ordered by the Vatican to leave St. Vincent Archabbey near Latrobe and enter a treatment center said he's not going anywhere until the pope hears his appeal.

Mark Gruber on Wednesday challenged Archabbott Douglas Nowicki's contention that Gruber coerced a former junior monk into making false sexual allegations against Nowicki.

Under oath, the former monk later recanted stating, “Father Gruber pressured me to execute this false affidavit to discredit the archabbot. ... I remain fearful of Gruber to this day.”

Gruber has been ordered to leave St. Vincent on Tuesdayand report to the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Mo. The center offers treatment for priests with drug and alcohol addictions, depression and other vocational issues. His dismissal stems from a lengthy case that began when photographs of naked men were discovered on his computer in 2009.

Nowicki said the decree “very clearly states there is no appeal” and he is relying “on (Gruber's) good judgment. I probably would just refer it back to the Holy See.”

In July, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith relieved Gruber of his monastic and priestly duties. He is no longer allowed to wear clerical garb, celebrate Mass, dispense Holy Communion or administer certain sacraments, except in special cases.

During an interview, Gruber wore a dark blue T-shirt and black jeans. He said he has no money and is allowed to eat at the seminary, adjacent to St. Vincent Basilica, where he has lived for four years under “ecclesiastical house arrest.” He spends his days meditating and praying, he said.

He said he is not permitted to leave the seminary grounds or be on the campus of St. Vincent College, where he had taught anthropology. He said he is shunned by other priests and monks and is not allowed visitors.

“I speak to no one. Virtually, it's a hermital life. I'm treated as a criminal,” he said. “I'm not allowed to go out.”

Nowicki disputed Gruber's description of his life at the seminary.

“He comes and goes as he pleases, as he always has,” he said. “It's my hope he can get on with his life. It's been a painful experience for everybody. He's no longer a member of the Benedictine community.”

The first Vatican decree, issued July 2, 2012, ordered Gruber to report to a monastery where he would spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. Later, he learned he would be sent to the Missouri treatment center.

Nowicki said an internal investigation by the archabbey discovered that Gruber was behind a plan to discredit him by forcing the former monk to level charges against Nowicki. The former student, now married, later signed an affidavit stating that the allegations were false.

Nowicki said Gruber and the former junior monk were very close.

“When Father Gruber realized the trouble he was in, he got him to make the false statements,” Nowicki said.

Gruber denied he was behind the allegations.

He said he was in contact with the former monk as recently as July 17 when he received a text message from him. The message made no reference to the affidavit or the recantation, Gruber said.

“I didn't know any document had been signed. I had no knowledge of that until I saw the press release,” he said.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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