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September 13, 2016

Pennsylvania priest charged with possessing child porn

Parishioner allegedly found explicit images on laptops

A Lehigh Valley priest has been accused of searching for and possessing child pornography.

The Lehigh County District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday that Msgr. John Stephen Mraz, 66, formerly of Emmaus, has been charged after an investigation that began earlier this summer.

Mraz had been stationed at St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church. On July 25, Mraz asked a parishioner at St. Ann's, only identified as D.M., to help upgrade his laptop, prosecutors said.

D.M. told authorities that while doing so he found images of nude males in the recycling bin of the computer.

Mraz asked D.M. to upgrade another laptop as well, and D.M. said he found a file with a name that suggested it contained explicit images of underage boys, prosecutors said.

D.M. told the Diocese of Allentown, which promptly informed the Lehigh County District Attorney's Office.

An investigation and seizure of Mraz's computers found that he searched for and downloaded child pornography, including videos and images of underage males engaged in sexual acts, according to authorities.

Mraz did so for "his own sexual gratification," prosecutors said.

According to the Diocese, Mraz was ordained as a priest in 1975 and has held several positions since then, including as a teacher at Allentown Central Catholic High School and as vice principal and director of spiritual activities at Marian High School in Tamaqua.

"Monsignor Mraz has been removed from public ministry and cannot present himself as a priest," the Diocese said in a statement.

"Because this matter is now in the hands of the judicial system, the Diocese will withhold further comment."

Mraz, who now resides at Holy Family Villa for Priests in Bethlehem, has been charged with sexual abuse of children, criminal use of communication facility and obscene and other sexual materials and performances.

He was arrested and released after posting a $50,000 unsecured bail. Information on a preliminary hearing date was not immediately known.