Former Emmaus Priest Admits to Child Porn Charge
By Sarah Cassi
Lehigh Valley Live
June 8, 2017
|John Stephen Mraz, seen here with a walker as he arrived for his preliminary hearing on Nov. 3, 2016, in Emmaus. (Sarah Cassi | lehighvalleylive.com)()|
A former Emmaus priest admitted on Thursday to downloading nude pictures of children for sexual gratification.
John Mraz, a monsignor and pastor of St. Ann's Catholic Church in Emmaus before being removed from public ministry, pleaded guilty to all three charges against him: possession of child pornography, illegal use of a communication facility and obtaining obscene/sexual images.
He is slated to be sentenced at a later date, following a presentence investigation. Under the plea deal, Mraz's minimum sentence is capped at 6 months in jail, meaning the judge could sentence him to less than that.
The 67-year-old Mraz has "serious medical issues," according to prosecutors, and used a walker to walk into court and up to the judge's bench. Mraz currently lives at Holy Family Villa for priests in Bethlehem while being free on $50,000 unsecured bail.
Lehigh County prosecutors said the images were discovered by a church parishioner and friend of Mraz's, who was updating the priest's computers in July.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Matt Falk said the dozen images would be described as child erotica, and depicted nude images of children between the ages of 10 and 15 performing everyday activities.
"The vast majority were not children engaged in sexual activity," Falk said.
Search terms on the laptop included "little boy" or "young teen" performing a sex act, Falk said. Mraz told Judge Maria Dantos he did not recall the file names or descriptions of the images, but that if they were on the laptop, he downloaded them.
Mraz was ordained in 1975, according to the diocese.
Falk explicitly stated there have been no allegations Mraz attempted to or had direct sexual contact with any children.
He taught at former Reading Central Catholic High School, Allentown Central Catholic High School and was vice principal and director of spiritual activities at Marian High School in Tamaqua.
Mraz served as chaplain at the Newman Center at Lehigh University and assistant superintendent in the Diocesan Office of Education.
Before he was pastor at St. Ann's, Mraz served in the former St. Bertha Parish in Tuscarora, Pennsylvania, and at the Assumption of the Blessed-Virgin Mary in Northampton Borough, according to the diocese.