Friday, August 13, 2010

Monks battle funeral cartel for right to sell caskets

The monks of Saint Joseph Abbey have been making caskets for over a hundred years. People who ask for them want to share in that noble simplicity that our coffins express. We’re not a wealthy monastery and we need the income that Saint Joseph Woodworks could generate for the health care and the education of our own monks.

On November 1, 2007, the monks opened their Saint Joseph Woodworks. But before they could sell even one casket, they were threatened with crippling fines, jail time and even a lawsuit.

Why?

Because the Louisiana funeral industry cartel had no interest in the competition. Even from a small group of monks.

To sell caskets legally, the monks would have to convert their monastery into a “funeral establishment” which means adding all sorts of needless equipment for things like embalming human remains. Further, the monks would have to apprentice with a cartel member for a full year and then take a government-approved casket test.

Keep in mind, a casket is just a box.

Curiously, in Louisiana it is perfectly legal to bury a human body straight into the ground. You can also wrap a bed sheet around a human body and bury it. And you can make your own casket. Or you can use a casket made by a friend or stranger – so long as you don’t pay for it.

But it’s illegal to pay for a casket…unless that casket is made by a member of the cartel.

This March, the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors subpoenaed two members of the Saint Joseph Abbey – Abbot Justin Brown and Deacon Mark Coudrain. If found guilty, the Abbot and Deacon will be subject to 180 days in jail and thousands of dollars in fines.

To clarify: The funeral cartel in Louisiana is attacking monks that make simple caskets for people that want them, which helps cover the cost of the monks’ monastic lifestyle. And for the “sin” of selling these caskets, the monks face crippling fines and even jail.



More at the New Orleans Times-Picayune
h/t
Lindy Bill

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