By Hilary White

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, February 13, 2008 ( – A statement from the four Catholic bishops of Kentucky says the Church supports a bill in the House of Representatives that seeks to increase sentences for those convicted of sexual abuse of minors.

The bishops said that House Bill 211 “will effectively protect young people from sexual predators and … will encourage public and private institutions to be vigilant in protecting children entrusted to their care.”

Bishops of the Archdiocese of Louisville and the Dioceses of Covington, Lexington, and Owensboro, wrote that the bill “appropriately increases the penalty for acts by a person in a position of authority or position of special trust as a way to hold those persons accountable.”

The bill places emphasis on the situation of adults in a “position of trust,” such as religious ministers, teachers or coaches and would make it a felony for such people to have sexual contact with anyone under 18 years. Penalties would also be increased under the bill for anyone who fails to report suspected abuse or neglect of children.

Although the bishops’ statement made no mention of it, two of the dioceses in the Kentucky conference were among the most notorious of the Catholic sex abuse scandals, in which mostly homosexual priests abused minors. In 2003, the Archdiocese of Louisville agreed to a settlement of $25.7 million to 243 people who said they had been abused by priests, religious brothers and lay employees.

Ninety of those paid in the settlement said they had been abused by the Rev. Louis Miller, a retired priest who is thought to be one of the worst offenders. Miller was sentenced to 20 years in prison for child sexual abuse.

When Archbishop Joseph Kurtz came to the Archdiocese of Louisville from Knoxville Tennessee in June last year, he told local media that the solution to the sex abuse situation was “transparency.”

“It’s built on transparency, a desire not only to cooperate with public authorities when problems occur, but to be able to have confidence of the faithful and the average citizen that we are cooperating.”