“Bishop Bambera has spoken with Archbishop Wilton Gregory and they have agreed that the Diocese of Scranton and Archdiocese of Washington will work jointly and cooperatively on undertaking a comprehensive investigation,” the statement concluded.
Concerns were raised about Rossi to Archbishop Gregory Tuesday night, during a question-and-answer session at a Theology on Tap, held at the Public Bar Live in the Dupont area of Washington. The event was broadcast live on Facebook.
During that session, Gregory called for an independent, forensic investigation of some allegations against Rossi.
In the first question from the floor at the Aug. 13 event, Gregory was asked about Rossi, who has been the subject of media reports and public speculation in the last year.
“My question calls for accountability, which in the past you have committed to,” a young man asked, before bringing up recent media reports alleging abuse or the cover-up of abuse on the part of Rossi.
“I am not claiming that these allegations have been technically proven,” the questioner said, “but I am wondering why in that sort of situation he hasn’t been removed from active ministry until an investigation can be completed?”
Gregory responded “In our society, people can be ‘proven guilty’ by innuendo or by common conversation.”
“As far as I know, no one who has been a victim [of Rossi] has come forward and identified themselves and said specifically ‘I was harmed.’”
A follow-up question noted 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 made in 2013.
Gregory said he was unfamiliar with the allegation.
“That’s news to me. And I am not doubting it, but I have not heard about [this situation].”
“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 the people. But I would like to see that, I would like to see a forensic investigation of those allegations.”
Gregory was then asked why Rossi remained in ministry at the Washington shrine; as the local archbishop, Gregory is the chairman of the board of trustees.
“It seems to me that the investigation has to come from his bishop, he’s a priest of Scranton.”
Acknowledging that Rossi is assigned to a Washington church, Gregory said that “the investigation has to begin with his bishop, that’s just how things are done.”
“Until that kind of investigation is done, a forensic one [with] outside investigators, I don’t know how we can make a decision [on the suitability of Rossi to continue in ministry in Washington] until those kinds of investigations are completed.”
(Story cotinues below)
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The announcement from the Diocese of Scranton came in response to questions from CNA about whether Bambera would initiate the kind of investigation called for by Gregory.
The Archdiocese of Washington did not return CNA's calls for comment.
Attempts were also made to contact Rossi through the communications office at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. A spokesperson for the shrine directed all inquiries to the Diocese of Scranton.
Beyond the allegations mentioned at the Aug. 13 Theology on Tap, additional accusations have also been leveled against Rossi.
In an interview in June, former papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria 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 both “well aware of the situation,” and that Rossi had previously been proposed for promotion to bishop and been blocked.
When he began his remarks, Gregory told the crowd of 350 young adults that he understood and shared the disaffection of local Catholics with the Church hierarchy in the wake of recent scandals which had left him “embarrassed.”