PITTSBURGH – 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 after two other suicide attempts.
Michael Unglo, 39, formerly of Etna in suburban Pittsburgh, committed suicide in May at a center in Stockbridge, Mass., 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 a 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 Dorsch for comment. Calls to two Pennsylvania numbers listing that name were not answered, and a third was disconnected.
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 and school in Etna, east of Pittsburgh, where Unglo grew up. His family said he was also molested at North Park.
Unglo tried to commit suicide in June 2008 "as a result of the effects of the extreme sexual abuse that had been perpetrated on him," the lawsuit said.
He 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.
Unglo said his brother briefly mentioned the abuse when Dorsch's conviction made news in the mid-1990s, but said, "I'm fine; I'll move on with things."
The lawsuit contends the Pittsburgh diocese began paying for his counseling and treatment in July 2008. The suit claims Bishop Zubik met with Unglo's brothers that December and committed to "do whatever it takes to right the wrong that was done to Michael R. Unglo by one of the church's own."
Perer said Dorsch sent Michael Unglo a "vague" letter apologizing for any suffering, without specifically acknowledging the sexual abuse. Michael Unglo didn't want to meet with the priest, and the diocese "refused to orchestrate" a meeting between the priest and Unglo's family, his brother said.
The diocese paid to treat Unglo at two New York City hospitals, as well as outpatient treatments. Unglo again tried to commit suicide in June 2009, the lawsuit said. The diocese continued to pay for Unglo's treatment in New York, at another center in Baltimore, and finally at Austen Riggs in Stockbridge, the lawsuit said.
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.
"My brother was very stressed out about the fact that the resources were running out," Samuel Unglo said. Three days before his suicide, Michael Unglo said, "I want you to know I'm in great pain," his brother reported.
On May 4, Unglo committed suicide at Austen Riggs, the lawsuit said.
The Survivors Network of Abused by Priests, a group with more than 9,000 members nationwide, said the Unglo case is "proof again that many bishops make promises and later violate them."
The $25,000 sought for each negligence allegation is the minimum necessary to bring the lawsuit in Common Pleas Court.