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.
Ed Condon is a canon lawyer and worked as Catholic News Agency's Washington DC editor until December 2020.
J.D.Flynn served as Catholic News Agency's editor-in-chief from August 2017 to December 2020.