Msgr. Rossi Takes Leave of Absence From Catholic University of America Board

The priest is the subject of a canonical investigation for unspecified allegations of misconduct.

The campus of The Catholic University of America
The campus of The Catholic University of America (photo: Courtesy photo)

WASHINGTON — Msgr. Walter Rossi has taken a leave of absence from the board of trustees at The Catholic University of America while he is the subject of a canonical investigation for unspecified allegations of misconduct.

“Last month the chairman of the board of trustees approved Msgr. Rossi’s request to take a voluntary leave of absence pending the resolution of the investigation launched jointly by the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Scranton. During the leave of absence Msgr. Rossi will not participate in any board activities,” Karna Lozoya, representative for the university, told CUA Sept. 20.

Lozoya told CNA that the university is “in contact with the Diocese of Scranton and the Archdiocese of Washington, who have jointly launched an investigation. We will cooperate with them as needed. We don’t have any information at this point to warrant our own investigation.”

In August, the Diocese of Scranton told CNA that it had commenced “the process of launching a full forensic investigation into the concerns that have been raised” about Msgr. Rossi, who is rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is adjacent to the campus of The Catholic University of America.

Msgr. Rossi is a priest of the Diocese of Scranton.

“The Diocese of Scranton and Archdiocese of Washington will work jointly and cooperatively on undertaking a comprehensive investigation,” the diocese told CNA.

Concerns were raised about Msgr. Rossi to Archbishop Wilton Gregory Aug. 13, during a question-and-answer session at a Theology on Tap event held at the Public Bar Live in the Dupont area of Washington. The event was broadcast live on Facebook.

During that session, Archbishop Gregory called for an independent, forensic investigation of some allegations against Msgr. Rossi.

Msgr. Rossi has been accused of directing young men to Father Matthew Reidlinger, a priest friend of Msgr. Rossi’s who is alleged to have sexually harassed them in phone calls and text messages. That accusation was made in 2013.

In August, Archbishop 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.”

Msgr. Rossi “is not an employee of Catholic University, nor does he have regular duties or responsibilities to fulfill on our campus. We do have students who are active either as part-time employees or volunteers at the shrine. We have not received any complaints from our students regarding Msgr. Rossi,” Lozoya told CNA Friday.

“The safety of our students is our first priority. If we ever have good reason to believe the safety of our students is in danger, we will take the necessary action,” she added.

While Msgr. Rossi is the subject of a canonical investigation, he has not been removed from his post at the national shrine, and neither the scope nor the timeline of the investigation have been delineated by the Archdiocese of Washington or the Diocese of Scranton.

Lozoya told CNA: “If anyone harms a student at The Catholic University of America, we want to know about it. If any member of our community has experienced sexual abuse or assault, or has firsthand knowledge of an incident, please contact our Department of Public Safety, the Metropolitan Police Department, our dean of students or our Title IX coordinator.”