Former Bedford priest pleads not guilty to assault

Prosecutors claim White assaulted boy in Boston

A former Bedford Episcopal priest and New England school chaplain pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he sexually assaulted a teenage boy in Boston in the 1970s.

Howard “Howdy” White, 75, was arraigned on five counts of assault and battery, Suffolk County, Mass., District Attorney’s Office spokesman Jake Wark said in a news release. White, a Bedford resident, had worked for years as a part-time replacement priest at St. James Episcopal Church in Bedford before church officials suspended him in January.

Audrey Scanlan, Episcopal bishop for central Pennsylvania, formally removed White from the priesthood in October, citing months of media reports claiming White had abused boys at a Rhode Island boarding school.

On Tuesday, White was released without bail in preparation for a possible trial next year. Prosecutors said he was an associate chaplain at St. George’s School in Middletown, R.I., in the 1970s when he took a male student on several overnight trips, including two to Boston.

During those trips, prosecutors claim, White assaulted the boy — then 15 to 16 years old — in a hotel room. When the teenager later confronted White, he allegedly replied: “If you try to stop, I’ll make your life difficult.”

If White had lived in Massachusetts at the time, prosecutors said, he might not have been open for criminal charges under the state’s statute of limitations for assault. The statute does not apply to those who live outside the state, however.

White pleaded not guilty to the allegations. When the claims first arose against him early this year, he told the New York Times, “It’s news to me.”

White had worked for years in Bedford as a “supply priest” — a priest who holds Sunday services but doesn’t serve full-time as a congregation’s pastor — since moving to the area in 2007, Scanlan said in January. He was temporarily suspended and replaced when the Rhode Island allegations were made public.

In October, Scanlan announced that White had been removed from the priesthood.

“We are committed to keeping God’s children safe, and we are heartbroken when we fail,” Scanlan said at the time. “My hope is that the appalling events documented at St. George’s School will lead our church to intensify its efforts to protect young people in every setting, and continue our commitment to preventing abuse with thorough training for clergy, staff and volunteers who work with children.”

Scanlan noted that no one locally had accused White of abuse, and that he denied guilt when told of his dismissal.

In Massachusetts, prosecutors waived a January administrative court date, Wark of the district attorney’s office said. A trial is scheduled for June 26.

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.