Aug. 16, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In his own words: Ex-cardinal’s letters to his alleged abuse victims

for obtaining exclusive correspondence from disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to three seminarians he is accused of sexually molesting or abusing. Winfield was tipped off to the story by seeing the correspondence to one seminarian in AP’s project files for The Reckoning investigation. That led to examples of McCarrick’s correspondence with two more men. Appearing innocuous and warm, McCarrick’s letters and postcards to the young men are a window into the way a predator grooms his prey, according to abuse prevention experts consulted by the AP. https://bit.ly/2Mjlk45

June 14, 2019

Best of the Week

AP investigation: Top US cardinal accused of mishandling abuse allegations against deputy

Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield’s five-month investigation revealed the stunning allegations: A high-ranking Catholic priest had a sexual relationship with a Houston woman for more than a year, counseled her husband on their marital problems, pressed for hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from the couple and continued to hear her confession.

But the cardinal overseeing the church’s handling of sexual abuse allegations in the United States approved the priest’s transfer to a church two hours away.

The fallout from Winfield’s revelations was swift: The priest was suspended and church officials reopened their inquiry into the handling of parishioner Laura Pontikes’ accusations.

To tell the sensitive story, Winfield – and a team that included Raleigh-based national writer/video journalist Allen Breed, New York global enterprise photographer Wong Maye-E and Houston correspondent Nomaan Merchant – meticulously planned coverage in each format, including on-camera interviews with Pontikes and her husband, and photos and video of the cardinal and the accused priest.

For an investigation that cast doubt on a top church official’s handling of a case involving startling allegations of abuse, Winfield, Breed, Wong and Merchant wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Jan. 11, 2019

Best of the Week

AP investigation exposes sex abuse suffered at hands of priests by India’s nuns

New Delhi-based investigative reporter Tim Sullivan spent months looking into whispers 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 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, and others who could give perspective on why they’d been kept secret for so long. Finally, he and New Delhi photographer Manish Swarup traveled to southern India’s Catholic heartland to meet with nuns who had become pariahs in their community for defending a sister who accused a bishop of rape.

Sullivan’s powerful narrative attracted widespread attention. Accompanied by Swarup’s evocative photos, it was one of the AP’s most-read stories for the week, with excellent reader engagement. AP clients specializing in Catholic affairs ran the story prominently.

The standout work by Sullivan and Swarup contributed to the week’s remarkable body of work across the AP in covering abuse by clergy. For exposing long-held scandals in India’s Catholic ministries, Sullivan and Swarup share AP’s Best of the Week.

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Sept. 21, 2018

Best of the States

Abuse scandal hits Texas diocese as cardinal meets with pope

Houston-based reporter Nomaan Merchant broke important news about the role of an influential American cardinal in an abuse scandal in his home diocese, just as the cardinal was meeting with Pope Francis to discuss reforms to address clergy abuse.

Merchant exclusively tracked down two accusers who allege a priest in the Houston archdiocese had abused them – and that church leaders, including Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, subsequently did little to nothing to keep him out of the ministry and away from children.

The allegations were significant on their own given the current abuse crisis roiling the Catholic church. But they were made even more newsworthy in that they implicated DiNardo just as he met with the pope to discuss the church’s handling of sex abuse cases. The accusers said they personally complained to DiNardo about the priest and believed they were brushed off.

Merchant's reporting made an immediate splash in Houston-area media and religion news sources. It was also the talk of the Vatican gathering in Rome.

For his efforts, Merchant wins this week's Best of States.

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Aug. 03, 2018

Best of the Week

AP reveals: Catholic nuns accuse clergy of sexual abuse

It was a #MeToo moment from the Vatican with a seemingly unlikely accuser – a nun.

Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield’s interview with a nun, who broke a 20-year-silence about being physically assaulted by an Italian priest, and reporting by Uganda correspondent Rodney Muhumuza about the scope of abuse in Africa, resulted in the AP being the first news organization to chronicle the global impact on nuns of the #MeToo movement.

Their story, which included expert analysis and exclusive Vatican comment urging nuns to report and bishops to sanction abusive priests, earns the Beat of the Week.

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Feb. 16, 2018

Best of the Week

AP staffers on three continents scramble to fact-check the pope on Chile abuse

Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield sensed a potentially explosive development in Chile's long-running sex abuse and cover-up scandal when she noticed a cryptic tweet from a former member of the Pope Francis' abuse advisory board.

Board member Marie Collins had tweeted that Francis was well aware that victims of Chile's most infamous predator priest had placed Bishop Juan Barros at the scene of their abuse. Collins herself had been involved in relaying those concerns to him.

Intrigued and sensing an important twist in a story that AP has already dominated, Winfield and Santiago correspondent Eva Vergara kicked off an extraordinary effort that would culminate in a three-day, multinational, cross-format papal fact-check, prompting calls for the pope to come clean about a scandal that now threatens his legacy.

Over the course of one frantic weekend the enterprise involved a Paris airport stakeout by senior TV producer Jeff Schaeffer, a missed Super Bowl party hosted by Philadelphia-based TV producer Yvonne Lee and a surreal TV interview conducted by AP reporters on three continents.

For teamwork that spanned the globe, in service of a story of immense global interest, Winfield, Vergara, Schaeffer and Lee are recognized with Beat of the Week.

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Jan. 26, 2018

Best of the Week

Pope responds, in person, after AP scoop on papal letter about Chilean bishop

Holding prominent officials accountable is one of the main missions of journalism, even if it is uncomfortable at times. AP’s Nicole Winfield did just that, politely but firmly pressing Pope Francis on his knowledge of a sexual abuse scandal that has clouded his appointment of a Chilean bishop in 2015 and cast doubt about his commitment to fighting the problem.

AP Santiago correspondent Eva Vergara got the first part of the scoop for AP. She knew a letter she had spent months tracking down was toxic to Francis, to his upcoming trip to Chile, and to the Chilean bishop appointed by Francis and accused of covering up for the country's most notorious pedophile priest.

The letter showed that Francis knew that Bishop Juan Barros was accused of complicity in covering up the sexual abuse by Rev. Fernando Karadima, but appointed Barros bishop anyway. The scandal and Francis' subsequent accusations of slander against abuse victims dominated coverage. It led to Francis trying to explain himself under tough questioning by Winfield on an extraordinary in-flight press conference on his way home.

For Winfield's unflinching questioning of the pope, and Vergara's determined efforts to surface the letter that launched the story, the pair wins Beat of the Week.

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July 14, 2017

Best of the Week

​AP investigation: Children suffered as Vatican hospital chased profits

The approach to Vatican Correspondent Nicole Winfield came from a member of a task force that had investigated care at Italy’s foremost pediatric facility, known as “the pope’s hospital.” The contact feared that serious concerns raised by the task force hadn’t been addressed two years later.

That tip, in late 2015, set the AP on a 20-month investigation of the Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus) Pediatric Hospital. Winfield teamed up with London-based Medical Writer Maria Cheng to reveal a dark chapter in the facility's history. They found that children sometimes paid the price as administrators tried to make the money-losing enterprise turn a profit, and Vatican officials took pains to keep the concerns quiet.

Their work earns the Beat of the Week.

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