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Woodland Woman Files Lawsuit Against Sacramento Diocese, Alleging Sexual Assault by Priest

WOODLAND -- A Woodland woman has filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, alleging she was sexually assaulted by a former parish priest.

The suit accuses Father Renerio Sabuga Jr., took advantage of the woman being a victim of childhood sexual abuse, and abuse throughout most of her adult life, and positioned himself as a counselor to her, paying her visits at her home and sending her text messages.

She alleges Sabuga, also known as Father Jong, ultimately sexually assaulted her in her home. She didn't file suit immediately, only after the church prohibited her from singing in the church choir. The woman also asked the Diocese to pay for more counseling.

Kevin Eckery with the Diocese of Sacramento released the following statement:

“In 2014, Fr. Jong received a written warning and was briefly suspended for what we understood to be an inappropriate relationship with an adult woman. In 2016, we received information that the relationship in question had resumed even after Fr. Jong had been suspended and warned to terminate the relationship and refrain from such conduct. As a result of that additional information, Fr. Jong was terminated, his visa was revoked and he returned to his native diocese in the Philippines.

“Ms. Small’s concerns were taken seriously and directly addressed. She met with Bishop Soto, she was offered and accepted 30 counseling sessions with a counselor of her choosing unaffiliated with the diocese, and an announcement was made in both local parishes where Fr. Jong served asking people to come forward if they too had complaints about Fr. Jong. We received no further complaints.

“She remains a member of her parish in Woodland. She has never been asked to leave that parish nor prevented from attending Mass there or anywhere else in the Diocese of Sacramento. With respect to any criminal allegations, we would advise anyone to report suspected criminal activity directly to law enforcement, not to the diocese.”