FREE THE MONKS!
Here in New Orleans, the orders are central to society. Our Benedictine Abbey, on the Northshore, in the suburbs, hidden in a wood, is St. Joseph’s Benedictine Abbey. They are our friends. We retreat there and they have been huge encouragers and pray for us in our own world and mission here.
The Benedictine motto is “ora et labora” (meaning “to work and pray”). They support themselves through various means: pastoring a few parishes; baking bread for missions, food banks, etc; teaching and administering in the undergraduate seminary, which they host for the Archdiocese & some international diocese; some specific other trades; they leased a Benedictine Ale recipe to Abita Beer; and they make very simple wooden caskets for a very small number of people who prefer the understated when they pass away. It began by them making simple caskets for themselves, and since 2007 have made about 50 for others. They also pray 365 days of the year, five times a day, as well as individually every day and have for over a century.
Two years ago, the powerful and very political funeral home director’s association had their board threaten the abbey for selling these wooden boxes. You see, they’ve used their lobbyists well and have made it illegal for anyone other than a funeral embalming business to sell caskets. They are threatening to put the Abbot in jail and fine the abbey. Take some notes on these little details:
1. It is not required to be buried in a sarcophagus or a casket at all. You can be buried straight in the ground… That is true in all fifty states.
2. The Funeral Home Director’s Board is composed of funeral business owners, save one – and he is connected.
3. There are forty thousand funerals a year in Louisiana. The monks have sold 12 1/2 caskets a year for the past four years. That’s .0003% of their annual business.
4. A casket from a funeral home runs $5-10,000. The Abbey sells these humble caskets for $2000. The use any proceeds to help cover medical expenses.
5. The argument the Funeral Directors gave is that “it places them in an awkward and uncomfortable position with families. …Ya think!
6. They made the bar so high, to get the Abbey to cease… take courses, get licensed, open a parlor at the Abbey, become embalmers, and have the monks involved do full time internships with a parlor that would take them …not paid.
In case you missed this – it is economic cartel at it’s best. The funeral guys who do a vital service, but also are bottom feeders feeding on the most dire situation a family faces and making bank on it. They have politicked themselves into a monopoly on something not even required for burial.
Two attempts by State representatives were voted down this past year… thanks to the funeral parlor lobbyists… Nice.
This political and economic bullying, threatening the Abbey and practicing A government sanction cartel is beyond wrong – it is immoral. It’s time to stop this and make a noise so loud that the state has to act.
Please drop an email or two to the governor, our senators and our state representative for our monks!
The monks have filed a federal suit against the state over this law. This is a national issue now. We need your help. Please write – it’s politics over the courts… This is the only way to bring about this change! THANKS for your help.