DA: Pastor of St. Ann's in Emmaus downloaded child porn for 'sexual gratification'

By Laurie Mason Schroeder, Matt Coughlin And Pamela Lehman
Morning Call
September 13, 2016

Lehigh County D.A Jim Martin announces charges for Monsignor John Stephen Mraz, the pastor of St. Ann's Catholic Church in Emmaus. Monsignor Mraz is charged with possession of child pornography which he downloaded "for his own sexual gratification," the Lehigh County district attorney said Tuesday morning at a news conference detailing the investigation of Monsignor John Stephen Mraz.

The Rev. Msgr. John S. Mraz during the Ash Wednesday services at the Church of Saint Ann in Emmaus on Wednesday, February 10, 2016.

[with video]

EMMAUS — The pastor of St. Ann's Catholic Church in Emmaus is charged with possession of child pornography which he downloaded "for his own sexual gratification, the Lehigh County district attorney said Tuesday morning at a news conference detailing the investigation of Monsignor John Stephen Mraz.

Mraz, a 66-year-old monsignor, is charged by county detectives with one felony count of possession of child pornography, one felony count of criminal use of a communication facility and a misdemeanor count of selling obscene materials. The charges list July 25 as the date of the offenses.

Parishioners said Mraz has been out about a month from St. Ann's Church with what officials said were "medical issues" and they had been asked at weekly Masses to say prayers for his recovery.

"[Mraz] searched for and downloaded the images of child pornography and did so for his own sexual gratification," District Attorney Jim Martin said at a 10:30 a.m. news conference.

"These videos and pornographic images were made by someone and put out on the internet and it's disturbing that this happens in our society," he said.

Martin said he understood that Mraz had been suffering from several health issues, but was told Mraz had submitted a letter of resignation.

Mraz, who Martin said is currently living at Holy Family Villa in Bethlehem, turned himself in Tuesday morning, was arraigned and is free on $50,000 unsecured bail, court records state.

According to a statement from the Diocese of Allentown, "Monsignor Mraz has been removed from public ministry and cannot present himself as a priest."

Matt Kerr, the diocese spokesman, said, "The community is very shocked." Kerr also said the parishioners had not been made aware of the situation with Mraz until Tuesday because the diocese wanted to wait for the criminal case to move forward.

According to court records:

Mraz turned to a parishioner identified as D.M. to upgrade his computer. D.M. took Mraz's silver HP laptop the week of July 25 and during the upgrade of the computer, discovered the computer's recycling bin contained various images of nude males of an unknown age, investigators said.

The priest then asked D.M. to update a second laptop, described in court records as an "older black HP laptop."

During the upgrade, D.M. discovered a file link named "naked little boys," or something similar, according to investigators. But D.M. was uncomfortable with his discovery and contacted the Allentown Diocese, police said. The diocese then contacted the district attorney's office.

Investigators obtained a search warrant and sized various digital devices from the rectory on Aug. 19. According to court records, the devices showed internet searches for "Small Boy Nudes," "handcuffed nude boys" and various other terms suggestive of child pornography. Investigators also found images of child pornography and of two young boys under the age of 18 engaged in sex.

According to court records, Mraz was interviewed and admitted using the devices to search for images of child pornography.

Mraz was previously the pastor at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Northampton until his appointment to St. Ann's in 2008. Records indicate that Mraz was placed in the diocese department of education in 1994 and a resident priest at the Church of St. Thomas More in Allentown.

He also serves the diocese in the office for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.

Mraz was arraigned via video Tuesday morning before District Judge Donna Butler and released on $50,000 unsecured bail. As a condition of bail, Butler banned Mraz from using the Internet or have any contact with children.

Mraz sat quietly in a wheelchair during the arraignment, which took place at the Lehigh County Jail's central booking center. He looked at the judge through the camera and said "thank you, judge" when Butler dismissed him.

Following the arraignment, Butler said it was a shocking day for the Emmaus community.

Mraz's attorney, John Waldron said he had not yet seen the charges against his client Tuesday morning. Waldron asked the public to withhold judgment until all the facts are known.

"We haven't had any hearings, we haven't had any evaluations. I don't think the community can make any decisions until we can see where the case goes from here," he said. "Physically, he's ill, and this is going to cause a great deal of anxiety for him."

Waldron said he plans to have a forensic psychologist examine Mraz.

Martin said the diocese has been completely cooperative with his office.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 3 in the Emmaus district court.

Check back for updates.



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