Family of Alleged Priest Abuse Victim Rallies against Lawsuit Dismissal

June 22, 2011

[with video]

PITTSBURGH -- The family of a man who said he was sexually abused by a priest and committed suicide shortly after the diocese stopped paying for his mental health treatments rallied downtown Wednesday in protest of a Common Pleas Court judge's decision to dismiss their lawsuit.

Michael Unglo, 39, committed suicide in May 2010, just a few months after the diocese stopped paying for his mental health treatments following two other attempts to take his own life.

Michael Unglo

His mother and sisters were among those carrying signs outside the City-County Building in downtown Pittsburgh on Wednesday protesting a judge's decision to dismiss their lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

"My brother lost his life over this. A life is a life. We are here to make sure no one has to go through what we are going through," said Anna Unglo Dzikowski.

"When leaders of a Catholic institution make severe, horrible decisions, there should be consequences to their actions," said Unglo's sister, Frances Samber.

The diocese agreed to pay for Unglo's psychiatric care after Bishop David Zubik learned he was sexually abused as a boy by former priest Richard Dorsch in the mid-1980s.

Dorsch, the former pastor of All Saints Church in Etna, was convicted of molesting another boy and served jail time.

After paying almost $400,000 for Unglo's mental health treatment, the church notified him last year it would cease payments after a final $75,000 check.

Unglo killed himself two months later, and his family's lawyer said the diocese knew that was a risk.

"They had a letter from his psychiatrist. His family members met with the bishop, begged him, 'Do not cut him off now. Because, if he knows he won't have any payment for medical treatment, something terrible could happen to him,' and the Diocese said, 'We're sorry,'" said Unglo family attorney Alan Perer.

Lawyers for the diocese argued that Unglo had threatened suicide before the church decided to cut off his funding.

"Sadly, this young man's condition was before, during and after our assistance -- significant financial assistance -- was the same, and we did not worsen it," said diocese attorney William Pietragallo.

"This was not a time to pull out. It was not. He was in his most-fragile state, and they walked. And it's wrong. It's wrong," said Samber.

If an appellate judge finds that the diocese did worsen Unglo's condition, his family's case will go before a jury.


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