ATLANTA — Vicki Long, the Roman Catholic lay minister whose affair with former Archbishop Eugene Marino led to his downfall, said Thursday that she married the prelate in December, 1988, and that "I love him and . . . stand by him."
Long, 27, said that church officials knew of her relationship with Marino since the two exchanged rings in a ceremony performed by Marino. "I have considered myself to be married to him since that time," she said, reading from a brief statement at a news conference.
Marino, 56, stepped down July 10, claiming he was in need of medical and psychological therapy. Last month, his successor, Bishop James P. Lyke, announced that the main reason for Marino's resignation was the Long affair.
Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, who accompanied Long at the news conference, portrayed her as a victim of sexual misconduct who turned to the church for solace, only to be further abused. Allred also provided a detailed description of Marino's behavior with Long.
Long and Marino "went on numerous trips together, and they often stayed at hotels and were often registered as husband and wife," Allred said. Marino told Long that he intended to let "everyone know, including the Pope," about their relationship."
"They tried to have a child together," Allred said.
Long has been at the center of a growing scandal in Atlanta involving reports that she had sexual relations with Marino, along with other Catholic officials. She has filed a paternity suit alleging that her daughter, born May 17, 1986, was fathered by a priest--not Marino. Blood tests proved he was not the father, but the church is paying child support. Long also has said that she was once seduced by a nun.
Allred declined to say whether she would file a suit against the church. But the news conference seemed designed to lay a foundation of blame on the church for Long's involvement with church officials.
Allred claimed that Marino seduced Long when she went to him for comfort over the affair she had had with the priest.
"(Marino) professed his love to her and began a sexual relationship with her which lasted for two years." During that time, she said, the two "spent almost every night together when he was in town," openly attending concerts, the theater and eating at restaurants.
Long still loves Marino, Allred said, and she said the relationship is "far from over," asserting that up until last week, Marino "was still calling her and telling her that he wanted to be with her."
Asked whether the marriage was legal, Allred said: "In Ms. Long's eyes, she is married in the eyes of God." She refused to say whether a marriage certificate exists.
Atlanta television station WAGA reported Wednesday that Marino, who church officials said was admitted to a psychiatric hospital last Thursday, had overdosed on sleeping pills and was under a suicide watch at St. Vincent's Hospital in Harrison, N.Y.
On Thursday, Lyke categorically denied the report.
In her statement, Long, apparently fighting back sobs, said: "I encourage Archbishop Marino to be strong and to know that I love him and that I stand by him."