Principal to Lead Diocese Review Board

By Brian Lyman
Norwich Bulletin
July 28, 2004

NORWICH -- Donald Macrino knows he'll have to strike a delicate balance as the chairman of the Norwich Diocesan Review Board.

"As a high school principal, I'm used to dealing with facts, and uncovering facts before making judgments," said Macrino, principal of Waterford High School. "We're dealing with things in the immediate past (in high school). I have learned some of the cases we're going to look at are decades old. The principals in some are deceased."

Macrino was appointed chairman of the board July 20. The committee reviews the diocese's sexual misconduct policies and the bishop's responses to sexual misconduct allegations.

"Our tendency is to move very quickly to protect a victim, as it always will be," Macrino said. "However, facts will have to be examined very, very carefully."

Macrino, who has been a teacher for 32 years and principal of Waterford High School for eight, is the first layman to lead the board, created by the diocese in 1990. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, requires review boards to have a majority of lay people not employed by the diocese.

Msgr. Thomas Bride, vicar general of the diocese, said Macrino's educational experience made him the best choice.

"Any school principal would have knowledge about this," he said. "We are supremely interested in the protection of young people. Macrino comes from a profession as a school administrator that is committed to the protection of young people. That's helpful to us."

The Norwich Diocese faces three lawsuits accusing priests of molesting children in the 1970s. The diocese settled a lawsuit with a "John Doe" in March 2003 over allegations of abuse in the early and late 1990s.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops found the diocese in compliance with the charter last year. Bishop Michael Cote has removed two priests accused of sexual abuse since taking over the diocese in May 2003.

Macrino, who is married with three grown children, said he felt a "deep sense of sadness" when the sexual abuse scandal shook the church in 2002.

"I grew up in the Catholic tradition," he said. "My family has always been supporters of the church. And I guess it was a source of embarrassment for me as an individual. And also, I had a great sense of sadness, because I know over decades and centuries the church has done many positive things."

Macrino will meet with the board every other month, with the chance to call emergency meetings should the need arise.

"I want to continue to believe the church will continue to be forthright about this, and deal with these responsibilities, whether it will be treatment of victims or whatever, and not let our guard down," he said. "And watchdog groups outside the church will never knowingly allow this to happen."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.