Vatican reporter Nicole Winfield held Pope Francis’ Jesuit order to account by challenging the superior general to come clean with the truth about a famous Jesuit artist accused of sexual and spiritual abuse of women under his care. The superior’s admission to Winfield – during a Christmas reception-turned-press conference – made headlines, and Winfield and AP were credited widely with having forced the Jesuits to answer uncomfortable questions and essentially admit they had lied.
The Jesuits had only acknowledged in a Dec. 2 statement that the priest had faced a single allegation of misconduct in 2021, one that was dismissed by the Vatican because it was too old to prosecute. Winfield was told by one of her Vatican sources that there was more to the story, including that the priest had been excommunicated for a previous offense, a claim initially reported by a fringe traditionalist blog.
At the reception, Winfield asked the superior general why the Jesuits had neglected to mention that the priest had also been convicted a year prior for having committed one of the most serious crimes in canon law and been excommunicated -- a story she had been working on for a week but had only been able to confirm with the single unnamed source, not two.
The superior came clean, giving Winfield the on-the-record confirmation she needed to publish a spot story the night of the Christmas reception which was widely picked up.