Allegations of misconduct have included that Rossi directed young men to another priest who harassed them. The Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Scranton (in Pennsylvania) — which launched the recent church investigation — have not said what exactly they are looking into.
During his leave, Rossi will not participate in any board activities, according to Catholic University spokeswoman Karna Lozoya. “We have no information that would lead us to do our own investigation at this time,” she said, noting that university officials will cooperate with the church investigation.
Rossi was cleared by an investigation last year by the Archdiocese of Washington, according to the Diocese of Scranton, where Rossi initially became a priest. However, Scranton and Washington launched a joint investigation this year, according to a statement from the Scranton diocese. “Additional concerns have now surfaced, however, requiring a broadened investigation,” the diocese. The investigations were first reported by the Catholic News Agency.
Hayes, a spokeswoman for the basilica, said that Rossi is awaiting the results of the new investigation and didn’t want his position on the board to be a distraction. Hayes said that Rossi would not comment to media at this time, citing the investigation.
In an Aug. 15 memo to the staff of the basilica obtained by The Post, Rossi wrote that he welcomed the investigation as a way of “putting these false claims to rest.”
“I have been, and will always be, as transparent as possible with you,” he wrote. “In that light, I want you to know that I am not aware of any credible allegations against me, nor have I been notified of any person who claims to have been harmed by me or my actions.”
Concerns were raised about Rossi to Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, who was installed in Washington earlier this year, in August during a question-and-answer session at a gathering called Theology on Tap, which was held in the Dupont area. According to the Catholic News Agency’s reporting, Gregory called for an independent forensic investigation of some allegations against Rossi.
The investigation into Rossi comes amid turmoil and change for the archdiocese of Washington. Earlier this year, the Vatican announced it had defrocked ex-archbishop Theodore McCarrick after accusations that he committed sexual abuse. Former archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl also retired early after revelations about his own handling of abuse cases.
In an interview in June that was circulated in some Catholic circles, former papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò 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.”
Viganò has been at the center of the ongoing abuse scandal in the Catholic Church since releasing a letter last summer accusing Pope Francis and numerous prominent American bishops of helping to cover up abuse by McCarrick. Meanwhile, Viganò has been accused of helping to cover up abuse by a senior American bishop.
In a recent interview with The Post, Viganò reiterated his criticisms of Francis and once again called for his resignation. He also restated his claims he received a letter from two Catholic University students who were also serving at the Shrine, accusing Rossi of having sexually harassed them. Viganò claimed that he had never personally been in possession of any church documentation regarding Rossi but alleges that there are confidential files kept in the Washington-based nunciature of the Vatican.
Calls to a spokesman at the Archdiocese of Washington were not immediately returned on Friday.
Michelle Boorstein and Chico Harlan contributed to this report.