2 dioceses investigating accused gay predator Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of national shrine
WASHINGTON, D.C., August 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Scranton have launched a “comprehensive investigation” into Monsignor Walter Rossi, the rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception who Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò said in June 2019 is “without a doubt, a member of the ‘gay mafia.’”
The investigation was announced just one day after a young man asked D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory at an August 13 Theology on Tap event about misconduct allegations against Rossi and why they haven’t been investigated.
“My question calls for accountability, which in the past you’ve committed to,” the young Catholic began. “Monsignor Walter Rossi has been openly accused of abuse and of aiding other predatory priests in their abuse, by multiple sources, including victims in high-level clergy. I’m not claiming that these allegations have been (technically) proven, but I’m wondering why in that sort of situation, he hasn’t been removed from active ministry until (an) investigation can be completed.”
“Uh, at this point – first of all, uh, in our society, people can be proven guilty by innuendo,” the archbishop responded, “or by, uh, common conversation.”
“As far as I know, uh, no one who has been a victim has come forward and identified themselves and said specifically, ‘I was harmed.’”
The questioner then brought up Rossi’s apparent connection to Matthew Riedlinger, an ex-priest who was exposed as a homosexual predator as part of a police sexting sting.
“That is news to me,” said Gregory. “And I – I’m not doubting it. But I have not heard it. That’s why I asked who he (Riedlinger) was. I suspect – I hope that there is a forensic investigation. But in today’s environment, even a forensic investigation that either proves or disproves will not satisfy (some) people.”
“But I would like to see that,” he continued. “I would like to see a forensic investigation of those allegations.”
“It seems to me, that, uh, the investigation has to come from his bishop,” Gregory said when the young man pressed him on why Rossi remains in active ministry at the D.C. shrine. “He’s a priest of Scranton ... the investigation has to begin with his bishop. That’s just how things are done.”
Nevertheless, Gregory still has the authority to determine which priests are granted faculties in his archdiocese.
Rossi is incardinated in the Diocese of Scranton but has been the rector of the basilica since ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick appointed him to that role in 2005. Rossi replaced now-Bishop Michael Bransfield, who left the basilica to become bishop of Wheeling-Charleston. Earlier this year, accusations that Bransfield was a serial sexual harasser of young men were deemed “credible.” The investigation into Bransfield also revealed he spent millions of Church dollars on chartering private jets and he and his staff drank almost $1,000 worth of alcohol a month. He also racked up a $182,000 flower bill because when he was in the chancery, it would receive fresh flowers costing $100 daily.
Rossi has been working for the shrine in various capacities since 1997, according to his bio on its website.
Journalist George Neumayr has been documenting at The American Spectator allegations of Rossi’s homosexual predation.
“Approximately one year ago, concerns were raised in the public sector regarding Monsignor Walter Rossi, a priest who was incardinated in the Diocese of Scranton but who has served more than 20 years at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.,” the Diocese of Scranton said in a statement to Neumayr on August 14.
“The Diocese of Scranton referred those initial concerns to the Archdiocese of Washington, which investigated certain specific allegations and determined them to be unfounded,” it continued. “Additional concerns have now surfaced, however, requiring a broadened investigation.”
“As a result, Bishop Joseph Bambera, Bishop of the Diocese of Scranton, has commenced the process of launching a full forensic investigation into concerns that have been raised. Bishop Bambera has spoken with Archbishop Wilton Gregory and they have agreed that the Diocese of Scranton and the Archdiocese of Washington will work jointly and cooperatively on undertaking a comprehensive investigation.”
Publicly available Broward County, Florida, property records accessed August 15, 2019, indicate Rossi co-owns a Fort Lauderdale condominium with Father Andrew Hvozdovic, pastor of the Church of the Epiphany in the Diocese of Scranton.
A number of alumni from the Catholic University of America (CUA) have told me that Rossi “hit” on them and “groomed” them. In one case, I was told, Rossi asked a CUA student about his gay roommate (with whom Rossi was overly familiar) and insinuated that the three of them should get together for group sex.
“Rossi is a gay sexual harasser of CUA students,” said this alumnus to me… “Rossi would groom CUA students,” says a D.C. archdiocesan source. “If they submitted to him, he would reward them; if they didn’t, he would treat them poorly, and if they worked at the Basilica, he would make life miserable for them until they left.”
Riedlinger, the priest caught in a police sexting sting, “used to live at Rossi’s Atlantic City beach condo,” reported Neumayr. “He was even registered to vote there and to this day gets mail at the condo, according to a mailman with whom I spoke last year. ... Riedlinger, these days, is married to a man and working at a furniture store in Wayne, New Jersey.”
Earlier this summer, Neumayr also raised questions about Rossi’s driving record, saying he’d received a tip that the priest drove drunk in the 1980s:
In the mid-1980s, not long after his ordination to the priesthood in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and long before his rise to power as head of Washington, D.C.’s Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Rossi got nabbed for a shameful series of bad judgments, according to the (Church) insider. He had “gotten drunk and was driving back to his rectory when he hit a bunch of parked cars and just kept going,” the insider says. Rossi returned to his rectory and fled to his room, where he “pretended to be asleep until the police arrived,” according to the insider. The police rousted him out of bed and showed him the proof that he had plowed into the cars. “He ended up losing his driver’s license for a year,” says the insider.
Rossi is famous for driving a posh Lexus and parking it in the spot closest to the Basilica’s doors...Pope Francis once said that it pained him to see priests driving “fancy” cars. It must also pain the pope to see them driving those cars recklessly. Rossi’s hit-and-run could have been tragic had anyone been sitting in the parked cars he hit...
Rossi was also fined $400 plus $94 in court fees for an October 10, 2017, reckless driving misdemeanor in Virginia, according to an online background check. Neumayr has reported on this as well. In fairness to Rossi, Virginia’s draconian traffic laws mean driving over 80 miles per hour – regardless of the posted speed limit – or 20 miles per hour over the posted limit is considered misdemeanor reckless driving. Speed limits in other states reach 85 miles per hour, meaning drivers can go up to around 90 or 95 miles per hour without being ticketed.
Neumayr is barred from entering the basilica.
As of press time, LifeSiteNews was unable to locate the statement on the joint investigation of Rossi on the Archdiocese of Washington’s website. The archdiocese did release a statement today, though, about a D.C. jury finding a Capuchin priest guilty of sexually assaulting two underage girls, the older of whom was 13.
“In compliance with its long-standing Child Protection and Safe Environment Policy, the archdiocese immediately revoked permission for Father (Urbano) Vasquez to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Washington and suspended his priestly faculties (in fall 2018, when the priest was accused),” the archdiocesan statement said. “Since last fall, the archdiocese has fully cooperated with law enforcement and civil authorities in their investigation. Father Vazquez’s criminal trial began in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia on Monday, August 5th and concluded today when the jury reached a verdict of guilty on all charges.”
Like Rossi, Vasquez technically wasn’t a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, but the local ordinary nevertheless had the authority to remove him from active ministry and did so.