The Diocese of Scranton has begun an investigation into allegations of misconduct on the part of the rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
“Bishop Joseph Bambera, Bishop of the Diocese of Scranton, has commenced the process of launching a full forensic investigation into the concerns that have been raised,” about Msgr. Walter Rossi, the diocese told CNA Aug. 14.
“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 referred those initial concerns to the Archdiocese of Washington, which investigated certain specific allegations and determined them to be unfounded,” the diocese added.
“Additional concerns have now surfaced, however, requiring a broadened investigation.”
“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].