Scranton diocese: ‘No credible evidence’ against Msgr. Rossi

Washington D.C., Jun 12, 2020 / 12:36 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Scranton released a statement Friday regarding Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The statement said that after an exhaustive investigation, investigators found no credible evidence to support allegations of misconduct against Rossi.

“The investigation of allegations of personal misconduct was led by outside counsel assisted by a retired  FBI agent with over thirty years of investigative experience. The investigation included interviews with numerous witnesses who have known Monsignor Rossi throughout his years in ministry,” the statement, released June 12, said.

“These witnesses included current and former Basilica employees, former CUA students, and current and former members of the clergy who were assigned to the Basilica or who worked with Monsignor Rossi.”

The statement said that “several witnesses were critical of Monsignor Rossi, including his managerial style at the Basilica, but none were aware of or could provide first-hand knowledge of sexual impropriety.”

The diocese also said that some of the witnesses “merely re-stated unsupported and unsubstantiated  rumors that  previously appeared in certain publications.” 

“The investigator attempted unsuccessfully to interview many additional witnesses and searched diligently for witnesses who could possibly support the rumors against Monsignor Rossi, but found none. The investigator also tried to locate the unnamed ‘sources’ for the critical articles, but could not.”

“The purpose of the Diocese’s investigation was to seek out credible  evidence of sexual impropriety and, if found, to determine an appropriate response,” said the statement. “At the conclusion of its comprehensive investigation, the Diocese of Scranton found no such credible evidence.”

Rossi had been variously accused of directing young men to a priest friend who was accused of harassing them by phone and text message, and, in accusations made by former apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, of sexual contact with male students at the nearby Catholic University of America.

A second statement, released Friday Archbishop Wilton Gregory, chairman of the national shrine's board, said that an investigation into shrine finances “found no improprieties and confirmed sound fiscal management of the Basilica.”

“During the course of investigation, numerous individuals were interviewed, including those responsible for fiscal administration at the Basilica. Additionally, the accounting experts performed an in-depth review of expenditures, general ledgers, credit card statements, receipts, invoices, capital budgets, bank and investment account statements as well as certain investment account reconciliations and other financial worksheets,” the shrine said.

That investigation “found no unreasonable or inappropriate expenditures or significant issues in the financial administration of the Basilica. The investigations did assist in suggesting certain improvements in management and policy enhancements that will benefit the Basilica and will be implemented.”

Rossi was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1987, and remains incarnated in that diocese. He has lived in Washington since 1997, where he served first as the national shrine’s associate rector and director of pilgrimages, before being promoted to rector of the basilica and made a monsignor in 2005.

The investigation was opened in August 2019, after concerns were raised about Rossi to Archbishop Wilton Gregory Aug. 13, during a question-and-answer session at a Theology on Tap, held at the Public Bar Live in the Dupont area of Washington.

A participant at the August event told Gregory that Rossi has been accused of directing young men to Fr. Matthew Reidlinger, a priest friend of Rossi’s who is alleged to have sexually harassed them in phone calls and text messages. That accusation was first made in 2013.

Gregory said he was unfamiliar with that allegation and called for an independent, forensic investigation. The following day, on Aug. 14, Rossi’s home diocese of Scranton told CNA that Bishop Joseph Bambera had “commenced the process of launching a full forensic investigation” and that it would work “jointly and cooperatively” with the Archdiocese of Washington on a “comprehensive investigation.”

Beyond the allegations mentioned at the Aug. 13 Theology on Tap, additional accusations had also been leveled against Rossi.

In an interview in June, 2019, Archbishop Vigano alleged that the nunciature in Washington had received “documentation that states that Msgr. Rossi had sexually molested male students at the Catholic University of America.”

Vigano also said that both the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and former Washington archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl were “well aware of the situation,” and that Rossi had previously been proposed for promotion to bishop and been blocked.

In September 2019, The Catholic University of America announced that Rossi had taken a leave of absence from the university’s board of trustees, of which he was a member by virtue of his role at the basilica.

 

 


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9 Comments

  1. Is the Report complete??? What about the condo in Florida owned by Msgr. Rossi and his priest “friend”? Perhaps CNA should do a little investigating about this white washed Report. Mother Angelica would want no less than that. I continue to be concerned about CNA. Seems to me that it doesn’t fit Mother Angelica’s requirements to be completely obedient to our beloved Church and her teachings. No ambivalence and mixed messages allowed.

  2. Does anybody trust the FBI? Does anybody trust Gregory? I would trust an investigation by investigative reporter Michael Voris of Church Militant. He has numerous awards as an investigatve reporter.

  3. Let me correct the problem score for the readers: Bishop Bambera, being himself a promoter of the LBGT ideology, has “no credibility,” therefore his judgments about “the credibility of evidence” weigh against this report, and do nothing to vindicate “his Lordship the Monsignor,” nor alleviate the moral burden weighing heavily on the conscience of “His Excellency Lord Gregory of Washington.”

    All this report does is re-enact the “Church theater” of the McCarrck Establishment, of which all three above named men are players in the ensemble.

    McCarrick is pleased…

  4. Msgr. Rossi’s mother is Polish and his ‘friend’s’ family are Slavic. It would be quite natural for Msgr. Rossi to have such a personal friend. I wonder if ‘catherine bridget’ has any other “aces” up her sleeve. Actually, I don’t.

  5. I also have questions which I ask with peace and not condemnation:

    1) How can a priest serving the Church, have a condo or be allowed property? Even if he hasn’t taken a vow of poverty, he still has to be an outward sign of Jesus who had no possessions. Many Catholic priests are too comfortable in the United States living a lifestyle unworthy of the priestly ministry (my personal opinion),
    2) Allegedly, he owns an expensive car (Lexus). This is another example of materialism and priests should not be materialistic. Maybe his family bought it for him, but it really is not necessary if you are a Catholic priest. A used Honda Fit if you need to get to home bound members, hospitals or jails/prisons, etc. is very nice and DC also has public transit,
    3) There are his connections (allegedly) to priests who are sexually immoral. Has he ever spoken out against sexual promiscuity and supported chastity in the priesthood and among his flock verbally in homilies or in the bulletin for example? Jesus hung out with prostitutes and taught them their behaviors were incorrect, but he didn’t participate in their sins,
    4) Is Msgr. Rossi sexually active as is claimed? What about his sexuality which is a concern if he is a Catholic priest? If so, does he abstain so that he can give his full attention to his flock and not his sexual desires? If he is not practicing chastity, he does not have the fortitude or self-control to be in any positions of power within the Catholic Church (my opinion), and
    5) Why were they not able to locate witnesses? Who were they trying to contact? Also, did they reach out to the other reporters who could help them locate their sources which allegedly have placed Msgr. Rossi in quite a few compromising situations?

    I have an idea of how to put this to rest or most of it without another further investigation.

    Msgr. Rossi can demonstrate his obedience, chastity, and humbleness. He can, with love, voluntarily sell all property giving the profits, if any, to the poor in that town, not accept any money given to him not even an income, stop all contact with his alleged lover(s) with the promise to not be sexually active (if he was), live in poverty (be sent out as a missionary to isolated places in South America where they only see priests once a year) and resign from positions of power for his remaining life. Then he can devote his life to the poor, to poverty, to renunciation of the world. to silence, to contemplation, and to prayer. If he accepts this and goes though with it without complaint or excuses, then we will have our answers not dependent on any investigation. This reassignment or change in pace isn’t a punishment because it would help his soul and strengthen his faith no matter if the allegations are true or false and bring Christ to those who would otherwise be left in the darkness. That is a much higher calling because it imitates Jesus who had only his feet to travel with, no steady income or money sources, no sex partners, no beautiful basilica to operate, and no positions of power.

    I want to add that I stopped giving money to the Basilica in DC because I felt Msgr. Rossi has a lot of explaining to do. This investigation does not quell my fears so at this time I will continue to refrain from donating to the Basilica.

    In addition, whenever WAOB plays a mass from there, I actually turn it off because I get sick thinking how evil (allegedly) is harbored there and allowed to continue. The mass, when broadcasted from the Basilica on WAOB, feels so fake and pretentious, but that is just my visceral reaction to this whole debacle. I hope I am wrong and can start listening to mass when it is broadcasted on WAOB and donating again once I see corrective, strong actions and not hollow assurances backed up by an incomplete investigation in my opinion.

    Thank you for your time.

    • I don’t know anything about Monsignor Rossi except what I read here, from which it appears that his behavior has been egregiously wrong, but I am having a hard time swallowing your unmitigated gall in presuming coolly to dictate what a priest is or is not allowed to own and the conditions which a priest must fulfill in order to prove his innocence.

  6. How naive do these deceptive rats think we are?! These men are the epitome of everything that’s wrong in the Church. I will not be donating to the Shrine or watching their Masses until these men are gone. Money talks with this type. Of course I will write to let them know why I am not supporting the Shrine. There are many good, faithful priests I can follow and support who do represent Christ to the faithful.

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