Eugene Marino, Black Archbishop, Dies at 66

By Douglas Martin
New York Times
November 16, 2000

The Rev. Eugene A. Marino, the first black Roman Catholic archbishop in the United States, whose resignation as archbishop of Atlanta in 1990 was linked to his affair with a woman, died on Nov. 12 in Manhasset, N.Y. He was 66.

The cause was apparently a heart attack, church spokesmen said.

Archbishop Marino was also the first black vicar general of a Catholic religious order, the first black secretary of the national bishops' congress and the highest-ranking American black prelate.

He retained his title after his resignation and was honored by the church for his work with troubled priests.

Archbishop Marino lived in the residence of the superior of the Salesians order in New Rochelle, N.Y. He died in a retreat house maintained by the church.

For the last five years, he had served as spiritual director of an outpatient program for priests with mental illness, substance abuse or sexual behavior problems at St. Vincent's Westchester in Harrison, N.Y., a unit of St. Vincent's Medical Center in Manhattan.

The archbishop resigned in July 1990, saying he wanted ''spiritual renewal, psychological therapy and medical supervision.'' About a month later, an Atlanta television station reported that he had had a two-year relationship with a 27-year-old single mother, Vicki R. Long. Ms. Long told interviewers that the archbishop had performed a secret wedding ceremony between them, including the exchange of rings.

Archbishop Marino acknowledged the sexual relationship, expressed his anguish at the violation of his vow of chastity and then retreated from public view. He entered a hospital and a prolonged program of recovery. Black Catholic leaders across the United States rallied people to send him 25,OOO letters of support in a campaign called ''To Archbishop Marino With Love.''

Cardinal John O'Connor, in a small celebration in St. Patrick's Cathedral in August 1999 to honor Archbishop Marino on the 25th anniversary of his elevation to bishop, said, ''Today you have a new life, very different from being archbishop of Atlanta; you are the wounded healer affirming your brothers.''

Eugene Antonio Marino was born on May 29, 1934, in Biloxi, Miss., the sixth of eight children of Jesus Maria Marino, a native of Puerto Rico, and Lottie Irene Bradford of Biloxi. He went to parish schools in Biloxi and graduated from St. Joseph's Seminary College in Washington, D.C. He then earned a master's degree in religious education at Fordham University.

In 1962, he was ordained a priest of the Society of St. Joseph, the largest Catholic order ministering mainly to blacks. For the next six years he taught religion, biology and physical science at Epiphany College in Newburgh, N.Y. Then, for four years, he was spiritual director of St. Joseph's Seminary. He was elected vicar general of the Josephites in 1971.

In 1974, when he was 40, he was named an auxiliary bishop in Washington, becoming only the third black in modern times to achieve the rank of bishop in the Catholic Church in the United States. There are currently 12 active and 1 retired black American bishops.

Working vigorously for racial equality in the church, he played a significant role in arranging Pope John Paul II's 1987 visit with black Catholic leaders in New Orleans and was an author of the black bishops' 1984 pastoral letter on evangelization. In 1985, he was elected secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the United States Catholic Conference, becoming the first black to hold a major post in the organization.

''I see it as a sign of hope and encouragement and an indication of a serious commitment to making black people leaders of the church at the highest levels,'' he said.

He was named archbishop of Atlanta in 1988, and later admitted that his relationship with Ms. Long began soon afterward. The Rev. Eugene McManus, public relations director for the Josephites, said Ms. Long sought counseling from Bishop Marino regarding a previous relationship with a priest in Savannah, Ga., with whom she had had a son.

Her relationship with Archbishop Marino ended at or before the time it became public. Father McManus said that there was no marriage but that ''there may have been a mock private ceremony.''

Father McManus characterized Archbishop Marino as exceedingly caring and generous.

Archbishop Marino is survived by six sisters: Juanita Howell of Minneapolis; Lillie Patterson of Kingston, N.C.; Sister Mary Eileen of the Oblate of Providence order in Baltimore; Joaquin Marino of Plainfield, N.J.; Clare Rhodeman of Biloxi; and Lucille Johnson of Chicago.

The Very Rev. Robert M. Kearns, Superior General of the Josephites, recalled a conversation Archbishop Marino had with Pope John Paul II a few years ago:

''Father, I am Archbishop Eugene Marino.''

''I know who you are. Archbishop, I have one question: Are you at peace?''

''I am, Holy Father.''

''Thanks be to God.''















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