Court Sides with Diocese after Man Commits Suicide

By Liz Navratil
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
September 30, 2011

The state Superior Court reaffirmed Thursday the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh's right to stop providing mental health treatment for a man who claimed he was abused by a priest in the 1980s.

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.

His brother later sued the diocese alleging negligence, but the case was thrown out of Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

The state Superior Court sided with the diocese Thursday, saying that because Mr. Unglo was suicidal before, during and after the period in which the diocese covered his treatment, it was not liable for his death.

Because canceling the services did not put Mr. Unglo in a "worse position" than before, "the Diocese was free to discontinue services without liability," Senior Judge Eugene Strassburger wrote in the court's formal opinion.

Mr. Unglo had claimed that he was the victim of "extreme sexual abuse" by a priest 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, though he was convicted in another molestation case in 1994 and removed from the ministry.

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.

Liz Navratil: or 412-263-1438.


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