WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholics have launched a petition demanding the investigation of Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
"Whereas Monsignor Walter Rossi has been credibly accused of sexual harassment by a former Catholic University of America (CUA) student, we strongly urge President John H. Garvey to open an investigation to determine the veracity of these allegations," states the petition, authored by Winnie Obike and launched by the group Catholic Laity for Orthodox Bishops and Reform. "In the meantime, we call on Monsignor Rossi to step down from the CUA Board of Trustees while the result of the investigation is pending."
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the papal nuncio-turned-whistleblower, confirmed in June that he received complaints of homosexual predation and harassment by Rossi when Viganò was nuncio.
"Monsignor Rossi is, without a doubt, a member of the 'gay mafia,'" Viganò said in remarks to Italian journalist Marco Tosatti on June 15.
"I can say that, while I was a nuncio in the United States, I received the documentation that states that Monsignor Rossi had sexually molested male students at the Catholic University of America," Viganò confirmed. "The Vatican, in particular Cardinal Parolin, is well aware of the situation of Monsignor Rossi, as is Cardinal Wuerl."
In addition to evidence of a double life as an active homosexual, Rossi has never answered questions about his finances, namely, how he acquired money to purchase a condo in Florida for half a million dollars in 2012, which he co-owns with his alleged homosexual partner, Fr. Andrew Hvozdovic.
Church Militant sent a number of queries to Rossi last month, including the request for the sake of transparency that Rossi publish his salary, along with any benefits, for the public to see. Rossi failed to answer that query.
Viganò has noted Rossi's connection to two proven homosexual predators: Bp. Michael Bransfield, his immediate predecessor as rector of the basilica — suspended after evidence that he sexually assaulted seminarians and also misappropriated millions of dollars for personal expenses; and then-Cdl. Theodore McCarrick, who handpicked Rossi to replace Bransfield.
"In fact, his successor as rector of the Basilica, Msgr. Walter Rossi, he was appointed there by McCarrick the same year that Bransfield was appointed bishop," Viganò went on to say.
This fact is confirmed by the Arlington diocese in its newspaper, The Catholic Herald, in a July 8, 2009 article: "In 2005, he was chosen by Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick to succeed Msgr. Michael Bransfield as rector, when Msgr. Bransfield was named Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston."
In an American Spectator article, authored by George Neumayr, multiple sources alleged that Rossi had carried on a number of homosexual relationships and had sexually harassed seminarians and students from Catholic University of America (CUA), on whose board of trustees he sits.
"I can finally testify that Rossi's name was proposed for promotion to my predecessor, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who blocked his progress,"said Viganò. "These facts clearly show how the 'gay mafia' operates."
Church Militant contacted Rossi to ask him to respond to Viganò's claims. Spokeswoman Jacqueline Hayes, director of communications for the basilica, responded with an evasive statement:
The National Shrine has never received any credible allegations of improper conduct by Monsignor Rossi. To the contrary, in 2018 Monsignor Rossi publicly condemned the issues of abuse that have plagued the Catholic Church (statement attached). The recent claims by Archbishop Vigano are baseless and without merit or substantiation.
Follow-up queries asking that Rossi directly deny Viganò's claims again went unanswered.
Located in Regency Tower South along Galt Ocean Mile in Fort Lauderdale, the prime piece of real estate, purchased by Rossi and Hvozdovic in 2012 for $470,000, is now worth more than half a million dollars.
Rossi sits on the board of directors for Regency Tower South and serves as treasurer.
According to a source who spoke with Neumayr, "We all know that Rossi and the priest with whom he owns that place are an old gay couple."
"He has photos of himself with Rossi looking like a married couple, and people have seen them walking the beach in Fort Lauderdale together in speedos," the source said.
Church Militant contacted Hvozdovic to ask why he and Rossi chose to buy the condo together and where they obtained the money to purchase it, but never received a response.
Rossi was linked to Fr. Matthew Riedlinger, ousted from the priesthood in 2013 after being caught in a sexting sting. Riedlinger's name has appeared as a resident of Rossi's condo in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Timothy Schmalz had been a student at CUA, and met Riedlinger through Rossi at the National Basilica, who encouraged young men to seek out Riedlinger as a mentor. Schmalz and another male friend were the target of Riedlinger's sexual harassment. When they reported it to the bishop of Trenton, New Jersey, David M. O'Connell, he did nothing.
Frustrated with the bishop's inaction, Schmalz set up a sting operation in which he pretended to be a 16-year-old male online, in the hopes of getting evidence of Riedlinger's active homosexuality. Schmalz (as the 16-year-old persona) befriended Riedlinger, who then began sending him vulgar and explicit messages.
"Within two weeks of the first contact, Riedlinger talked about pornography, mutual masturbation and sexual encounters," wrote Schmalz in a 2013 article. "And, he wanted to meet 'me.'"
In total, Riedlinger sent Schmalz more than 1,000 text messages.
When the texts were turned over to the bishop, Riedlinger was finally removed — but the bishop refused to tell parishioners why.
"The people deserved to know," Schmalz wrote. "Why did O'Connell deliberately withhold this information from parents whose children had close contact with Riedlinger and who may have fallen victim to his manipulation?"
According to a source who spoke with Neumayr, "Riedlinger was a homosexual who had been kicked out of the seminary in Ohio. He then turned up at Catholic University. Riedlinger would brag about his sexual relationship with Rossi, who helped him become a priest in the diocese of Trenton."
Riedlinger is no longer a priest, and now lives with his male partner in New Jersey, where he runs a furniture store.
Church Militant has sent queries in the past to Garvey asking whether Catholic University of America would launch an investigation into its boardmember, Rossi, but received no response.
Individuals may add their name to the petition to investigate Msgr. Rossi here.