Episcopal priest suspended amid abuse claims at RI prep school

Courtesy of WPRI

BEDFORD, Penn. (WPRI/AP) — The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania announced this week she has suspended a priest named in the investigation into widespread allegations of sexual abuse at St. George’s School in Middletown.

More than two dozen students allege they were molested or raped at the elite boarding school in the 1970s and `80s.

In a letter posted on the diocese’s website, Bishop Audrey Scanlan informed church members that The Rev. Dr. Howard White was one of six people identified in the school’s internal investigation.

White, who has not been charged with a crime, is a retired priest who has been serving as a long-term fill-in pastor at St. James Episcopal Church in Bedford, about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Episcopal officials moved swiftly after his name surfaced, saying he would be subjected to church discipline.

“I have moved to immediately restrict Fr. White’s ministry and to provide for the pastoral care of the congregation that he currently serves,” Bishop Scanlan wrote. “The Diocese of Central Pennsylvania is committed to upholding our police of Zero-Tolerance of any adult sexual misconduct and/or child abuse by any member of the clergy, staff persons or volunteers.”

Scanlan said she learned of the allegations from the Rt. Reverend W. Nicholas Knisely, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island. She said she has not received any reports of abuse at St. James.

“The church must be a place where people can come with the deepest wounds and vulnerabilities and be safe,” Scanlan wrote. “Our churches must be places where children are nurtured and respected and care for and never harmed or abused in any way.

Former St. George's students speak out on sexual abuse allegations »
Former St. George’s students speak out on sexual abuse allegations »

White did not return a phone message left at his home by The Associated Press Thursday.

Last month, St. George’s School said it found that 26 students were sexually abused by six school employees in the 1970s and `80s. The boarding school acknowledged it didn’t report abusers to authorities at the time and apologized for not doing more. Rhode Island State Police are investigating.

A biography of White on St. James’ website said he was also on the faculty of St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, and went on to serve in leadership positions at private schools in Virginia and North Carolina before becoming rector of a church in Waynesville, North Carolina. He stayed at Grace Church in the Mountains for 22 years.

Ordained 50 years ago last month, White retired to Bedford in 2007.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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