New Delhi-based investigative reporter Tim Sullivan spent months looking into whispers, first heard by Nicole Winfield at the Vatican, that Indian nuns had endured sexual pressure by Catholic priests. What he found, after months of reporting into the closed-off world of Catholic convents, was a pattern of sexual abuse that went back decades, ranging from drunken priests barging into nuns’ rooms to outright rape. He also found a culture of silence that had long kept these attacks hidden. Slowly, though, Sullivan found sisters willing to open up about their attacks. He also found nuns, former priests and others who could give perspective about these attacks and why they’d been kept secret for so long. Finally, he and New Delhi photographer Manish Swarup traveled to India’s Catholic heartland, in the southern state of Kerala, to meet with a group of nuns who had become pariahs in their community for defending a sister who had accused a bishop of rape.
Sullivan's powerful narrative attracted widespread attention.
The story, accompanied by Swarup’s evocative photos, was one of the AP’s most-read stories of the week and had excellent reader engagement, with many readers staying with the narrative until the end. AP clients specializing in Catholic affairs, including America magazine of the U.S. Jesuit order and the Catholic website Crux, both ran the story prominently.
The standout work by Sullivan contributed to a remarkable body of work across the AP in covering the global clergy abuse scandal. Chief Vatican correspondent Winfield also reported exclusively on a confidential Vatican letter to U.S. bishops about proposed responses to the scandal, and exclusive Vatican confirmation that an Argentine bishop hand-picked by the pope for a top job was under investigation for sexual misconduct. And Philadelphia’s Claudia Lauer – winner of this week's Best of the States – found that Roman Catholic dioceses across the U.S. have released the names of more than 1,000 priests accused of abusing children in the wake of a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania.
For exposing long-held scandals in India’s Catholic ministries, Sullivan and Swarup share AP’s Best of the Week.