A Roman Catholic priest, who used to serve as pastor for a Lehigh Valley church and as an educator at various area Catholic schools, faces child pornography charges after asking a friend and parishioner to upgrade his computer.
Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin announced child sex abuse charges Tuesday morning against Monsignor John Mraz, 66, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Mraz faces the sex abuse charges in connection to downloading child porn, said investigators.
Some of the terms Mraz searched for online included "nude boys wrestling," "teen boys spanked," "small boy nudes," "handcuffed nude boys," "boy bondage" and other terms involving boys and sexual acts, said police.
The charges stemmed from when Mraz, who formerly served as pastor at St. Ann's Church along S 6th Street in Emmaus, gave his HP laptop to a parishioner – identified by the DA as D.M. – to perform maintenance and upgrade the computer in late July.
D.M. discovered files depicting nude males of unknown ages in the computer’s recycling bin, said the district attorney's office in a news release.
D.M. made the upgrades and returned the laptop to Mraz who then asked D.M. to upgrade a second, older laptop, said the DA.
"In the process of upgrading the second laptop, D.M. discovered a file with a name suggesting it contained obscene images of underage males," said the DA’s office. "These discoveries made D.M. uncomfortable, and he informed the Diocese of Allentown about what he had found on Mraz’s laptops."
The diocese then alerted the district attorney’s office, which in turn investigated and searched Mraz’s home at the Emmaus church, taking various electronic devices, said the DA.
"As a result of the analysis, it is alleged that the user of the devices actively searched the Internet looking for images and videos of underage males engaged in sex acts," said the DA’s office. "It is alleged that numerous image files of child pornography were on the devices as well."
Among the numerous images of nude boys under the age of 18 recovered from Mraz's computers was at least one photo of boys involved in a sex act, said an affidavit of probable cause.
Investigators determined Mraz downloaded the photos "for his own sexual gratification," said the DA’s office.
In a statement, the diocese said it removed Mraz -- who has been a priest for 41 years --and that he can no longer present himself as a priest.
Over his four decades as a priest, Mraz worked at various Catholic schools including Allentown Central and was vice principal at Marian High in Tamaqua. He also served as chaplain at the Newman Center at Lehigh University, said the diocese. He was a priest at St. Ann's since 2008.
Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Mraz said he couldn't make any comment without his attorney present. He did however reveal he has been hospitalized since July 8.