Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese Sued After Abuse Accuser’s Suicide

August 3, 2010

The estate of a man allegedly abused by a priest in the 1980s is suing 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.

Michael Unglo, 39, formerly of suburban Pittsburgh, committed suicide in May at a center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by The Associated Press.

He alleged he was molested in the early 1980s while an altar boy, by a priest who was convicted of molesting another boy and later resigned.

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.”

The Associated Press could not immediately locate the former priest, Richard Dorsch, for comment.

According to the lawsuit and electronic court documents examined by The Associated Press, Dorsch was convicted of two counts of indecent assault and one count of corruption of minors in 1995 for molesting another boy.

News accounts at the time said Dorsch resigned from the priesthood in 1996, while Thursday’s lawsuit contends he was defrocked.

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.

The lawsuit alleges Unglo was molested, beginning at age 10, in the early 1980s while he was a student and altar boy at All Saints Church. His family said he was also molested at North Park.

Unglo graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania and was a successful Madison Avenue advertising copywriter when he began suffering flashbacks a couple of years ago, his family said.

When he died, he was being treated for complex post-traumatic stress disorder fueled by the abuse, said Samuel Unglo, executor of his brother’s estate.

The diocese paid to treat Unglo at two New York City hospitals, as well as outpatient treatments.

The lawsuit contends the diocese made a final payment of $75,000 to Unglo in March, saying no further payment for his treatment would be forthcoming.

Lengwin, the church spokesman, said the diocese had said on previous occasions that it would stop paying for Unglo’s treatment, but reconsidered after the family documented that it was necessary. If the family had made a similar request in this instance, the diocese would have considered it, even if diocesan officials did say the $75,000 payment was “final,” he said.

Perer said, however, that e-mails and other correspondence from the diocese clearly state that the $75,000 payment would be its last.

Perer said the diocese has claimed to have spent $300,000 for Unglo’s treatment, which Lengwin confirmed. Samuel Unglo said his brother “exhausted” his financial resources and wasn’t working or insured when he died.

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