The other day I saw a recent photo pop up on Twitter of Monsignor Walter Rossi standing next to a group of friends and allies — Donald Wuerl (the disgraced former archbishop of Washington, D.C.), Callista and Newt Gingrich, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the pope’s representative in the United States. The last figure interested me the most: Why would the pope’s man in Washington be lending his prestige to a cleric under investigation for corruption by the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and the diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania? Wouldn’t he want to steer clear of him?
It appears the answer lies in this pontificate’s penchant for riding to the rescue of many corrupt clerics. Rossi, who heads up the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., has enjoyed the patronage of Pierre since the Rossi scandal broke last year. I have been told by insiders in Washington, D.C., that my articles on Rossi precipitated the initial investigation of his misconduct — an investigation one observer described as an utter sham. “Rossi allies around Wuerl just hastily interviewed a few of Rossi’s subordinates at the Shrine, who of course said only positive things about him. They didn’t interview anybody who wasn’t dependent on Rossi for their salary. The investigation was a joke,” he said.
Around the time that first bogus investigation was proceeding, Archbishop Pierre held a fundraiser for a foundation headed up by one of Rossi’s proteges, John Schlageter, to whom Rossi has sold his Dupont Circle apartment. According to a lawyer who looked at the sale for me, Schlageter purchased it with the help of a loan from Robert Comstock, a crony of Rossi’s who used to work as a real estate lawyer in Chevy Chase, Maryland. My calls to Comstock and Schlageter have not been returned. Comstock is a donor to the Basilica and to the archdiocese of Washington, D.C. (Wuerl has given him an award for his donations.)
Through Rossi’s string-pulling, according to insiders, Schlageter became the head of the Bethlehem University Foundation. In November of last year, Pierre opened up the Vatican embassy to an awards ceremony for Schlageter’s foundation. Also on the committee hosting the event was Monsignor Walter Rossi.
Pierre’s time in Washington has not been without scandal. In 2017, one of his senior staffers got busted by the State Department for downloading child pornography while working at the nunciature. The State Department requested that Pierre and the Vatican waive immunity for the nabbed priest-diplomat. But they refused and had the diplomat whisked off to Vatican City.
Pierre is close to many members of the gay mafia in the United States, including Cardinal Joseph Tobin in Newark, New Jersey, who is famous for, among other things, once housing an Italian soap actor at his rectory. When not engaging in left-wing protests — one of Pierre’s first acts as nuncio was to say a provocative Mass at the border between Mexico and the United States — Pierre can be found in the company of Francis’ favorite left-wing American bishops. No doubt Pierre sees his interference-running for Rossi as an extension of his papal mandate to cover up for the bad guys and goad the good ones.
His greatest act of protection for Rossi is that he hasn’t released the damning information on him, which sits in files at the Vatican embassy and to which his predecessor, Archbishop Carlo Viganò, has referred. In an interview with the Italian journalist Marco Tosatti earlier this year, Viganò said,
Monsignor Rossi is, without a doubt, a member of the “gay mafia.” You can read about him online on The American Spectator website.
I can say that, while I was a nuncio in the United States, I received the documentation that states that Msgr. Rossi had sexually molested male students at the Catholic University of America. The Vatican, in particular Cdl. [Pietro] Parolin, is well aware of the situation of Msgr. Rossi, as is Cdl. Wuerl. I can finally testify that Rossi’s name was proposed for promotion to my predecessor, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who blocked his progress.
Church insiders have told me that the gay mafia schemed to make Rossi the bishop of Scranton. But as Viganò says, then-papal nuncio Sambi put the kibosh on that plan. Sambi’s file on Rossi, I’m told, was devastating and were it released by Pierre would finish off Rossi’s ecclesiastical career. Naturally, Pierre is sitting on it.
The Washington Post, after a month of ignoring the Rossi investigation, has finally reported on a development in it: that Rossi has taken a leave of absence from the board of Catholic University until the investigation concludes. Buried deep in the piece is a revealing paragraph:
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 CUA 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.
We’re told again and again by this pope’s defenders that he is committed to “transparency” and “reform.” But if that is the case, why is his man in Washington concealing the Rossi files?