Philadelphia prosecutors have withdrawn their request for the treatment records of a former priest accused of molesting an altar boy, acknowledging that most of the files had either been destroyed or are protected by patient confidentiality laws.

The decision came a week after a lawyer representing St. John Vianney, the Downingtown treatment center, said the state's Mental Health Procedures Act legally barred it from sharing its files.

That same motion to quash the subpoena noted that the medical center typically destroys most patient records eight years after treatment.

Prosecutors accepted both arguments.

"It appears that the documents sought from St. John Vianney that were most relevant to the case no longer exist," Assistant District Attorney Evangelia Manos wrote in a response filed Friday.

At issue were the records for Edward V. Avery, a former priest charged with molesting a Northeast Philadelphia altar boy in the late 1990s. Three other priests and a former schoolteacher are also awaiting trial on related charges.

All have pleaded not guilty.

Five years before the alleged attacks, Avery spent six months in treatment at St. John Vianney after another former altar boy told church officials the priest had abused him at a Montgomery County parish in the 1970s.

The facility is where the Archdiocese of Philadelphia routinely sends its priests for treatment of addiction or behavioral problems, including allegations of child sex abuse.

Avery, 68, of Haverford, was removed from ministry in 2003 and defrocked three years later.

Kevin Raphael, an attorney for the center, and Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Seth Williams, did not respond to requests for comment Monday. Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina has barred the lawyers and defendants from publicly discussing the case.

Contact staff writer John P. Martin at 215-854-4774, jmartin@phillynews.com, or @JPMartinInky on Twitter.