“Thou shalt not get caught”

Woodland woman sues Sacramento diocese over alleged sexual assault by priest, diocese says it acted forcefully once it learned there was a problem

Dorothy Small and the Rev. Renerio Sabuga Jr., known to parishioners in Woodland as “Father Jong.” Small contends in a lawsuit that Sabuga pursued her romantically and sexually assaulted her. (photo: Sacramento Bee/courtesy of Dorothy Small)

Dorothy Small met the new priest at Woodland’s Holy Rosary Catholic Church in April 2014, and almost immediately the Rev. Renerio Sabuga Jr. began inviting her out for bicycle rides or dinner, Small says.

Within weeks, she said, the priest – known to parishioners as “Father Jong” – would confide in her with intensely private thoughts.

In a matter of months, that stance changed as Small and Sabuga became close and the priest pursued her romantically until Feb. 17, 2015, when the priest “cornered (Small) in her bedroom and sexually assaulted” her, a lawsuit filed Monday in Sacramento Superior Court alleges.

The allegations in Small’s lawsuit are explosive, charging that church officials routinely ignored Small’s requests for help. Her suit was filed by Sacramento attorney Joseph George against the Sacramento Catholic Diocese, Sabuga and Holy Rosary priest Jonathan Molina.

The diocese counters that it acted forcefully to dismiss Sabuga from his duties once it learned there was a problem, and had priests read an announcement in August 2016 at two area churches where he had served. The announcement informed parishioners that officials had “received a credible allegation that Father Sabuga had conducted himself inappropriately with an adult.”

The diocese also provided 30 counseling sessions to Small to help her deal with the matter, and made clear that she could continue to attend services at the Woodland church.

Small, 62, claims that church officials ignored her concerns, with one priest allegedly responding to her sexual assault claim by telling her, “What man wouldn’t want a piece of […] every now and then?” the lawsuit states.

She also claimed in an interview with The Bee that Sabuga made flippant comments about the so-called “11th commandment” at the church: “Thou shalt not get caught.”

The allegations against officials at the Woodland church come four years after another priest at Holy Rosary, 33-year-old Uriel Ojeda, pleaded guilty to molesting a 13-year-old girl. Ojeda, now 37, was sentenced to eight years in prison and remains incarcerated, according to online state prison records.

Small’s claims against the diocese are not as clear cut. She conceded in an interview that she and Sabuga were drawn to each other, that they were “incredibly smitten” and that they frequently texted each other. She also says she once kissed him, but says she repeatedly told the priest that they could not have a romantic relationship.

Despite her claims, Small contends she never wanted to sue the diocese, that instead she sought additional counseling sessions from the diocese that eventually were cut off. She also claims that she left the church for a while because of the harassment, and that when she sought to return to the choir earlier this year Father Molina refused to allow her to lead the choir as cantor.

“Can Jong come back?” Molina responded when she asked about returning, the lawsuit states.

Full story at The Sacramento Bee.



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  1. So many irresponsible decisions and such scandalous behavior by both people, escalating in irresponsibility and scandal over a long time. The woman might have been a victim of sexual assault, but prior to that she was guilty of poor judgment in pursuing an inappropriately close relationship with a priest, which she could have ended at any time by ceasing contact with him. The priest might be guilty of sexual assault, but prior to that he was guilty of violating the spirit of priestly celibacy and chastity.

    • Some people blame the priest.
      Some people blame the woman.
      Some people blame both.
      Why don’t we stop blaming the victims and
      pray for healing of both parties and the Church’s.

  2. Sounds like the relationship was inappropriate long before the “assault” occurred.

  3. CeCe Rojas says:

    Why did this woman put herself in this position. When the relationship first started, the woman should have gone to her Bishop to put a stop to it. She is partly blame, too.

  4. Anne T. says:

    If this report is true, I say “Amen!” to the first three posts. I learned a long time ago to do as the Orthodox Jewish men and women do: Don’t bring a man into your house when you are alone unless it is an absolute emergency and the door is open, unless it is a relative. Even with relatives, such as brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law one needs to be cautious and have the approval of ones husband or wife. Because these two acted foolishly, now they want everyone else to pay for it. I say put the blame where it mostly lies — on the two of them. They were old enough to know better. This is OFM — Out for Money. When the flow of money stops, this kind of behavior will stop. The Old Testament tell men not to hang around the threshold of his…

    • Anne T. says:

      Continued: of their neighbor’s wives. This is a similar situation.

      If this priest did rape her, and it can be proven, he should go to jail like anyone else, but only those involved in the situation, or who encouraged it, should be paying money out of their pockets, not non involved parishioners. If she was screaming and telling him to get away, and the neighbor’s heard it, etc., then that should be evidence, but it does seem as if she is not guiltless in all this IF the article above is correct.

  5. There are hundred of times men and women attempted to report
    being sexually assaulted to a bishop and were either rebuffed or told it would be taken care of and it wasn’t. This is a provable fact.
    I love the Church and have no axe to grind.
    I just know the truth from having talked to hundreds of survivors since 2002.
    Miguel @ http://www.mgoretti.org

    • Anne T. says:

      Miguel, if the above article is correct, they were not victims unless someone forced them to do what they did. She might have been a victim. They got themselves into this situation all by themselves unless others encouraged it, and it seems some might have done so.

  6. Linda Maria says:

    This lady is in her 60s, so you would think she would have much better judgement! She may or may not be Catholic, and may also have been a paid church musician. How in the world did the priest get into her bedroom?? Makes no sense! Anyway, he probably should never have been ordained in the first place! No respect for holy vows of celibacy, and the serious, daily responsibilities of a priest! Sexual assault– rape– is a horrible crime, and it is even worse, if the rapist is a local Catholic priest!

  7. Anne T. says:

    The Daily Mail has an interview with Dorothy Small where she says she invited him over for tea, and that she felt he was “safe” since he was a priest. This was after she has made complaints about him.

    • Anne T. says:

      He did call her first, then she invited him over for tea. It seems that was how he got into her house, and it had to be after she made the complaints about him.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The responsibility of sexual assault is 100% on the one who assaults.
    The responsibility for keeping a vow of celibacy is 100% on the person who made the vow.

    • Anne T. says:

      Well when some women insist that priests should be washing their feet on Holy Thursday, especially the younger ones, I put some of the blame on them. My question. What decent, right thinking, woman would want a priest to wash her feet?

    • Anne T. says:

      Regarding my last post: my answer was concerning your last sentence. Not the first one. The assailant is responsible for rape.

    • Anne T. says:

      I should have worded my last post better. Very young women are often naïve as to the effect they have on men, and that does not necessarily make them indecent; but parishioners should not be forcing the younger priests to wash the feet of women, or even the older ones. The Lord did not wash the feet of women, and I think there were good reasons for that.

      • Steve Seitz says:

        Anne T.,
        The Lord did have a reason for not washing the feet of women at the Last Supper, but the reason wasn’t fear of lust.

        Or, at least, I thought you were driving at this point.

        • Anne T. says:

          Steve, Christ did not have a fear of lust as He was both human and divine, and He could not sin. My point is that we are not divine, do have temptations and can sin.

          Let me give an example. When I was younger a very nice looking man grabbed my hand during the Lord’s Prayer when I went to church by myself. The strong attraction I felt for him was not one I wanted to encourage as a married woman, so I avoid holding hands after that. An older priest indicated he had the same complaints from some younger priests about foot washing.

          • Steve Seitz says:

            Anne T.,
            I think we had a misunderstanding. I thought you had inferred that Jesus didn’t wash the feet of women because he feared lust. But, it sounds like you didn’t mean this. 🙂

          • Anne T. says:

            Yes, Steve we did have a misunderstanding. I was merely trying to get across that the hormones do not stop for younger men when they are ordained, and even some of the older ones. People often quote the saying: “What would Jesus do?” Well sometimes some of us cannot do what Jesus did and stay out of trouble. Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote that when he had to counsel a pretty young woman, he made sure she was on the other side of the table. I feel sorry for Pope Francis washing feet, as I have heard he has bad knees and only a lung and a half.

      • Anonymous says:

        In my experience,the people chosen to get their feet washed do so out of obedience and humility. Most people would rather not do it.
        They are not trying to seduce a priest.

        • Anne T. says:

          Well, according to what one priest told me, some do and some don’t. As a woman, I refuse to get involved in it.

  9. Steve Seitz says:

    So it looks like we have a 62 year old Catholic woman who was having an affair with a vowed man. But not just any vowed man, but one with serious issues.

    Given the woman’s age, I think she was in need of psychological counseling way before the sexual assault.

  10. Bob One says:

    In many parts of the world it is the woman who is rapped that is stoned to death. Sounds like some of that going on here. The man did the assault, not the woman. No is No no matter when!

    • Anne T. says:

      Bob One, I said he should go to jail if he actually raped her, but is there any proof he did? She said she let him in her house after she had complained about his harassment. That does not make any sense. Anyone can blame anyone of anything. That does not necessarily make it true.

    • Steve Seitz says:

      Bob One,
      I think the reason why most people aren’t mentioning the priest is that we all agree that he’s a “lower end” individual. But, what does this situation say about the woman. I and others have been filling in those gaps.

  11. Ski Ven says:

    I don’t have enough free time on my hands to get involved with romantic relationships. I can’t help but wonder what duties this Priest was neglecting. Surely they were not ordained just to spend their time messing around.

    • Mr. Cleo says:

      Sometimes the priesthood attracts men who, due to lack of leadership qualities, charisma and intelligence, have no other career options that would afford them a comfortable life, a secure job and respect in the community. The Church is so desperate for vocations that it’s often willing to ordain a man if he shows he can use a knife and fork competently. These men, after ordination, just go through the motions of confecting sacraments and managing a parish but they do not consider themselves an alter Christus and the way they spend their free time reveals a lot about what they think of their priesthood.

    • “I don’t have enough free time on my hands to get involved with romantic relationships.” That’s been the story of my life for years 🙂

  12. Without saying anything about this case, there are women who get hung up on cops and priests. On patrol my brother was often approached by women who would have had no interest in him if he was an insurance salesman. At my parish, about ten years ago, a women was literally stalking our pastor. Little suggestive notes, gifts etc.

    We ended up sitting next to her one Easter and my Mom said to her “Peace be with you .. in another parish.”

    • Steve Seitz says:

      Your comments were the same as mine, but I decided not to make them. But you did. Thank you.

    • Anne T. says:

      If the woman was dong those things, C&H, your mother did the right thing. If the woman keeps it up a priest should make copies as such unwanted notes and so forth and give them to their superiors for evidence later. One of my friends, and also my past employer, told me, “Always keep a paper trail.”

    • Bohemond says:

      They love men in uniform….

  13. This is another example of two immature people doing stupid things. Ms. Small should have poured cold water on Father Jong’s early efforts to initiate a relationship with her. Father Jong should have sought help from a spiritual director or Catholic counselor.

  14. Anne T. says:

    I am beginning to understand something that was going on here. If the woman was being paid to be a cantor and this was her livelihood and counseling was part of the package, perhaps she is owed money for counseling. She could have been put in a bind, which of course she, and perhaps others, did not handle very well. I have a word for the ladies — don’t be alone with a priest for very long, and you will not be accused of scandal. Say “No” politely or make an excuse not to be there and mean it. Counseling should be done where there are windows to the outside or to an office, etc. Perhaps this woman needs a woman counselor.

  15. Gee, I always thought the undisclosed 11th commandment was “Thou Shalt Not Buy Retail.”

  16. Ski Ven says:

    Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. As such, he calls whomever he wills to be his Apostles. He did not call the most intelligent, charismatic, or elite men to be his Apostles. Some of his Apostles were fishermen from Galilee and were considered to be the dregs of society. They went on to become the foundation of the one and only true Church founded by Jesus Christ. St John Vianney had trouble keeping up in school and went on to become a better Priest than the ones that outperformed him in school. The problem is not a lack of charisma or intelligence. The problem is a lack of holiness. A man who is Holy does not spend his time running around after women. St Joseph, teach us to be Holy and pure like you.

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