A DISGRACED priest has been told he faces a prison sentence for the historic sex abuse of two teenagers.

Brian Rutledge was found unanimously guilty by jurors who spent four hours deliberating at Southampton Crown Court.

After last night's verdict, the Bishop of Portsmouth condemned the retired cleric for his betrayal of trust and promised he would never again serve as a priest.

The church authorities say they reported Rutledge to the police which then sparked a major investigation into the crimes which span 25 years.

Rutledge, 69, of Waldegrave Close in Weston, was found guilty of a buggery on a boy of 17 and had admitted sexually assaulting the victim in the same incident after getting into his double bed.

What jurors did not know was that the retired catholic priest had pleaded guilty to sexually abusing another youth also in the mid-1980s.

Judge Christopher Leigh QC told defence lawyer Stewart Patterson that he would not sentence Rutledge without a pre-sentence report - which he asked to be carried out by a senior probation officer. He also requested a psychiatric report be gathered.

The judge also directed that he wanted a report from the Catholic church about what plans they have for Rutledge after he is released from jail.

As Mr Patterson asked for bail to be continued, Judge Leigh expressed concern about the defendant. "I watched him throughout the trial and I was distinctly concerned by his way of thinking and behaviour generally."

However, the judge granted Rutledge bail on the condition he lives at an address in Bournemouth and reports three times a week to the police until he is sentenced on April 28.

The court heard how Rutledge first met the youth at a summer camp in 1975 and four years later they were part of a group who went on a pilgrimage to Turin.

One night he invited the boy to his room, suggested they should undress and afterwards they cuddled in the same bed.

The court charges follow an incident after the teenager had been invited to his bungalow home at the Park Place Pastoral Centre in Wickham in 1981.

Rutledge said he had hoped they would continue the "hugs and cuddles."

Details of the assault against the second youth have not been revealed in court.

After the hearing, Bishop Crispian Hollis issued a statement on behalf of the Diocese of Portsmouth condemning the retired priest's abuse.

It read: "The conviction of a priest in these circumstances is obviously a matter of great sadness. It is a betrayal of trust and an abuse of the role of a priest. I condemn his actions without hesitation.

"I want to record my outright condemnation of the abuse of children by any adult. Such abuse is even more abhorrent when it is at the hands of a priest.

"I apologise publicly for the actions of Brian Rutledge. He will never again serve as a priest.

"The case was brought to the attention of the police by the Diocese as a result of our child protection procedures.

We have cooperated with them fully throughout their investigation."

Rutledge is no longer acting as a priest but he has officiated at several Hampshire and Berkshire churches as an assistant priest or parish priest as well as Bournemouth where he acted as a hospital chaplain.

A spokesperson for Hampshire police, who launched a nationwide investigation in December 2005 following an allegation of historic sex abuse, said it was pleased with the verdict.

A statement read: "Hampshire Constabulary takes allegations of sexual offences seriously, no matter when the offences were committed or who they were committed by.

"Hampshire Constabulary is pleased with cooperation from various members of the Catholic Church during the investigation and Portsmouth Diocese have assisted when approached."