Key point. Churches that voluntarily agree to pay counseling fees to victims of sexual misconduct may be able to discontinue these payments without liability if the counseling has not placed the counselee in a worse position.
A Pennsylvania court ruled that a Catholic diocese that agreed to pay counseling fees for a victim of childhood sexual abuse was not responsible for the victim's suicide that occurred shortly after the diocese decided to stop paying for the counseling. For three years a student (the decedent) at a church-operated parochial school was a victim of sexual abuse by a priest. Thereafter, the decedent graduated from a state university with honors, and became employed in a professional capacity. In 2008, allegedly as a result of the effects of the sexual abuse, the decedent attempted to take his own life. Following this incident, the local diocese began paying for the decedent's counseling expenses. A year later, the decedent again unsuccessfully attempted suicide. The diocese continued to provide payment for counseling services. In 2010, the diocese indicated that it would not financially support any further services or treatment, and agreed to issue a final payment for $75,000 regardless of decedent's need for further treatment. A psychotherapist advised the diocese that the decedent needed continued treatment because of suicidal behavior. The decedent's family claimed that the diocese knew or should have known that their decision to discontinue further payment for psychiatric treatment would likely cause severe emotional distress to decedent. The family further claimed that decision to terminate further support resulted in the decedent taking his life.