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Former Episcopal priest pleads guilty to serial child sexual abuse

Former Episcopal priest pleads guilty to serial child sexual abuse

Howard “Howdy” White, a former Episcopal priest, has pled guilty to numerous counts of child sexual abuse in a North Carolina court. He received a sentence of 12 years. He was previously sentenced on similar charges in Massachusetts. White, 78, was deposed as a priest in the Episcopal Church in 2016.

The Mountaineer reports:

White lived in Haywood County from 1984-2006, during which time he acted as the rector for Waynesville’s Grace Church in the Mountains…. He initially faced a litany of felonies related to the alleged sexual abuse of multiple children spanning almost two decades, including first-degree forcible rape, second-degree forcible rape, second-degree forcible sex offense and indecent liberties with a child….

Although he was initially facing some first-degree forcible rape charges, under the plea, those were all downgraded, and White ultimately pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree forcible rape, eight counts of second-degree forcible sex offense and seven counts of indecent liberties with a child.

In the courtroom Monday were White’s attorneys, Waynesville Police Lt. Chris Chandler, [District Attorney Ashley] Welch and Assistant District Attorney Jeff Jones, as well as the four victims and their families.

The details of the assaults, as read into the record by Welch, were horrendous. White used not only his position of power within the church to abuse children, but also his status as a guardian ad litem. Two of the four victims were troubled teens who came to stay briefly with White, who was at the time considered a responsible adult. In addition, he frequently used alcohol as a means to both draw close to and impair his victims.

In May 2017, White was convicted in Massachusetts to a sentence 18 months for child molestation that occured while a assistant chaplain at St. George’s Episcopal School, Rhode Island in the early 1970s. (He also worked at Camp Ramleh, St. George’s summer camp.) Confronted by the headmaster at the time, White admitted to the molestation of several students. He was quietly let go.

An investigative report prepared for St. George’s, Sexual Abuse at St. George’s School and the School’s Response: 1970 to 2015, includes further allegations against White:

White likely did engage in sexual abuse of children prior to joining St. George’s. Published reports indicate that a former student at St. Paul’s School [New Hampshire] recently reported to that school’s independent investigator that White sexually abused him between 1966 and 1971. In addition, Richard Albright, a former parishioner of a church that employed White in West Virginia, filed a complaint in 1996 alleging that, in approximately 1969, when Albright was eleven years old, White sexually abused him. That complaint was ultimately dismissed on statute of limitations grounds, but the conduct alleged in the complaint is consistent with the first-hand reports of the St. George’s witnesses.

Allegations in a complaint, standing alone, do not rise to the level of evidentiary proof. Where they are accompanied by credible evidence consistent with the alleged conduct, however (as they are here), it is appropriate to consider such allegations as part of the evidentiary record. Albright has recently spoken publicly about White’s alleged conduct, which he said took place in a camper at Oral Lake, West Virginia. According to Albright, White demanded that he get in bed with him. When Albright later tried to fight off White’s advances, White reportedly threw Albright to the floor and said, “What’s wrong with you? The other boys like it.” “St. George’s Sex Abuse Scandal: Rev. ‘Howdy’ White’s Trail of Trauma,” Providence Journal (Apr. 30, 2016).

White served at the West Virginia church a short time immediately out of Virginia Theological Seminary. During his time in seminary, he was a counselor at a Diocese of West Virginia camp.

In all, White was employed within several dioceses — not always canonically resident; often in an Episcopal school. For specifics see our report in The Lead from 2016: Trail of sex abuse allegations extended back to Diocese of West Virginia in 1969.

The bishops of these dioceses have met concerning the many times White was not stopped. No reports have emerged from that meeting.

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Charles Banks
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Charles Banks

As the chancellor (lawyer) for the Episcopal diocese in Pennsylvania which finally removed White from ordained ministry, I'm gratified that secular law finally caught up with him, but I'm equally disturbed by all of his 'enablers' who looked the other way and passed him on from school to school and diocese to diocese for the 40+ years of his reign of terror. They are the ones who will never pay the price of their collaboration with his unspeakable betrayal of our youth.

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Jane Gilgun
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For the life of me, I don't understand how people in authority allowed this man the freedom to molest. I understand the motive to molest better than I understand the enabling of it.

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