Michael R. Unglo had a history of attempting suicide. In May 2010, at least a month after the church announced that it would stop paying for his care, Mr. Unglo killed himself.
Mr. Unglo had claimed that he was the victim of “extreme sexual abuse” by a priest, Richard Dorsch at All Saints Church in Etna between 1982 and 1985, when he served as an altar boy and attended a school linked to the church. The priest was never charged criminally with molesting Mr. Unglo. Dorsch was sentenced to 11 to 23 months in jail after molesting a 13-year-old boy he had invited to North Park near Pittsburgh for a day of swimming and golfing, court records show.
In June 2008, Mr. Unglo attempted to commit suicide. A month later, the diocese began to pay for his mental health treatment. Later that year, Bishop David Zubik told two of Mr. Unglo’s brothers and said he would do “whatever it takes to right the wrong,” according to court documents.
Mr. Unglo attempted suicide again in June 2009. The diocese paid for him to receive treatment at Bellevue Hospital in New York, Sheppard Pratt in Maryland and Austen Riggs Center in Massachusetts.
In “early 2010,” the diocese sent Mr. Unglo a letter saying it would give him one final payment of $75,000. On April 5, 2010, a doctor at Austen Riggs Center told the diocese Mr. Unglo needed more treatment. Almost a month later, on May 4, 2010, Mr. Unglo committed suicide at the center.
The estate of Michael Unglo sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, alleging he committed suicide this year after the diocese stopped paying for his mental health treatments following two other suicide attempts.
The diocese decided to stop paying for Unglo’s treatment even though the diocese continued to pay for the priest’s health insurance and paid the priest an unspecified monthly stipend, Alan Perer, attorney for Unglo’s estate, said Thursday at a news conference.
“There was money to fund a convicted, pedophile, defrocked priest and yet not enough money to continue to provide for the victim of that priest who ultimately killed himself,” Perer said.
The lawsuit alleges negligence by the diocese and Bishop David Zubik and seeks at least $50,000 in damages for factors including Unglo’s pain and suffering, his medical expenses, his future lost income and his family’s loss of his companionship.
The diocese issued a statement Thursday denying negligence or any responsibility for Unglo’s death, noting that it “provided hundreds of thousands of dollars for counseling and residential treatment” that continued until his death.
The Rev. Ronald Lengwin, a diocesan spokesman, confirmed the diocese continues to pay the former priest, Richard Dorsch, a monthly stipend of about $1,000.
“As a matter of policy we don’t want to see anyone go homeless,” Lengwin said. “If we provide a stipend that doesn’t mean we’re supporting that priest in terms of the allegations, but he is a human being and we have to care for him in a minimum way.”