January 6, 2016
Feast of the Epiphany
Dear members of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania,
You may have read in today’s newspapers that a member of our Central Pennsylvania clergy, the Rev. Dr. Howard White, is among the subjects of an investigation into widespread allegations of sexual abuse during the 1970s and 1980s at St. George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island. The Rev. Dr. Howard White served at the school during this time and is now a retired priest who currently serves as a long-term supply priest at St. James Episcopal Church, Bedford (PA).
St. George’s School recently released the report of its investigation and the Rhode Island State Police are conducting a criminal investigation into episodes discussed in that report. Yesterday, former students of St. George’s named Fr. White as one of the alleged abusers described in the report.
I learned about this situation as it was developing from my colleague, the Rt. Reverend W. Nicholas Knisely, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, who serves as an ex officio member of the board at the school. I have moved to immediately restrict Fr. White’s ministry and to provide for the pastoral care of the congregation that he currently serves. I have no information that leads me to believe that there have been any incidents of abuse at St. James, Bedford, but it is imperative that we employ all the safeguards that are available to us while the investigation of the Rhode Island State Police continues and while the formal ecclesiastical discipline process involving Fr. White unfolds. The Diocese of Central Pennsylvania is committed to upholding our policy of Zero-Tolerance of any adult sexual misconduct and/or child abuse by any member of the clergy, staff persons or volunteers.
If there are those in our diocese who have a need to talk about this or any related incidents, please know that I am ready to listen and respond in a confidential pastoral manner or make provisions for appropriate care.
As your bishop, I want to assure you that the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania deals responsibly and responsively with complaints and allegations of misconduct, which includes making reports to the appropriate authorities when child abuse and sexual misconduct is suspected and cooperating with ongoing investigations. All of our clergy, staff and volunteers who work with children are required to complete educational training programs called Safeguarding God’s Children and Safeguarding God’s People.
The church must be a place where people can come with the deepest wounds and vulnerabilities and be safe. Our churches must be places where children are nurtured and respected and cared for and never harmed or abused in any way.
I will provide updates as they become available.
I covet your prayers for all those involved.
Diocese of Central Pennsylvania