[Episcopal News Service] Howard White Jr., a former Episcopal priest who was previously convicted of molesting a student during his time as a chaplain at a Rhode Island boarding school, pleaded guilty on Oct. 21 to 15 charges of child sexual abuse in North Carolina.
White, 78, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the assaults that took place from 1984 to 2004, while he was rector of Grace Church in the Mountains in Waynesville, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Allegations of sexual misconduct against White stretch all the way back to 1967, the Citizen-Times reported, and cover multiple states. During his extensive career serving in schools and parishes, White worked in West Virginia, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
White was first charged with sexual abuse in 2016, after the Rhode Island State Police investigated reports of abuse at St. George’s School, an Episcopal boarding school in Middletown, Rhode Island, from the 1970s. Among them were allegations that White, then the school’s associate chaplain, assaulted a student during trips to Boston in 1973. White was charged in Massachusetts and pleaded guilty in December 2016, receiving an 18-month prison sentence.
In 2007, White had retired and moved to Bedford, Pennsylvania, where he was serving as a supply priest, according to the Providence Journal. When the St. George’s School allegations became public, Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Cady Scanlan placed him on leave, and she deposed him – permanently removing him from the priesthood – in October 2016.
While White was still under investigation in the St. George’s School case, a woman in Waynesville contacted the Diocese of Western North Carolina to report that he had abused her in the mid-1980s in the rectory of Grace Church in the Mountains. A police investigation followed, revealing more victims, and White was charged in North Carolina while serving his prison sentence in Massachusetts.
“I’m relieved that the survivors of Howard White’s crimes are being given some measure of justice in this sentencing,” Bishop W. Nicholas Knisely of Rhode Island wrote in a statement to Episcopal News Service. “I’m sorry that it has taken this long for it to arrive, and I’m sorry that the church did not live up to its responsibility over the years.”
Bishop José McLoughlin of Western North Carolina told ENS his diocese “embraced the need for a full and accurate understanding of any wrongs committed by Mr. White during his time in the diocese.”
“While Mr. White was removed from the priesthood almost three years ago in accordance with the rules of The Episcopal Church concerning misconduct, it was especially important that he also be investigated under our criminal justice system,” McLoughlin wrote in his statement. “We are grateful for the work of those in law enforcement and the district attorney’s office for investigating the claims and now securing a conviction to hold Mr. White accountable for those matters to which he has confessed responsibility.”
– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.