The dual probe was launched last fall. Rossi, who has been rector of the shrine since 2005, was cleared by an investigation in 2018 by the Washington Archdiocese, according to the Scranton Diocese. But a second inquiry began, according to a Scranton statement last fall, after “additional concerns” surfaced. Officials in both dioceses have declined to clarify what any new information or allegations might have been.
Rossi stepped down from the board of Catholic University in September, requesting a leave until the investigation was done.
Anonymous media reports and rumors have dogged Rossi, saying that he had intentionally connected Catholic University students to a priest who later harassed them.
The Friday statement from Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said the investigation was done by an outside attorney and a retired FBI agent. Some witnesses “merely restated unsupported and unsubstantiated rumors that appeared in certain publications.” The investigator “attempted unsuccessfully” to interview many other witnesses and tried to find the “unnamed ‘sources’ for the critical articles but could not,” it said.
The investigation “found no such credible evidence” for personal misconduct allegations, Bambera said. His statement said several witnesses were critical of Rossi, including for his management style.
Rossi was accused of sexual assault of students last year by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. The former Vatican ambassador has leveled a variety of charges against top church leaders in explosive letters he usually disseminates through conservative Catholic media outlets. Viganò is strongly critical of Pope Francis and last week sent a letter to President Trump praising the president for fighting what the cleric characterized as a battle in the West between the “children of light” and the “children of darkness.”
In an interview in June 2019, Viganò alleged that the Vatican embassy in Washington had received “documentation that states that Msgr. Rossi had sexually molested male students at the Catholic University of America.” Last year in an interview with The Washington Post, Viganò said that he had never personally been in possession of any church documentation regarding Rossi.
The Friday statement from Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory, chairman of the board of the Basilica, said the probe into the church’s finances was led by an independent accounting firm. It found “no unreasonable or inappropriate expenditures or significant issues.”
The probe did suggest certain management and policy “enhancements,” Gregory’s statement read.
What kind of changes the investigation recommended for management and policy and whether those changes will be enacted were not immediately clear Friday night, and the board’s appointed spokesman on the situation did not return a message from The Post. A spokeswoman for Catholic University said the board doesn’t meet again until fall and thus likely won’t take any action on Rossi before then.