Loading
Monks in Louisiana win lengthy fight to sell caskets
St. Joseph Benedictine Abbey church in St. Joseph, Louisiana. Credit: Jason Johnston/CNA.
St. Joseph Benedictine Abbey church in St. Joseph, Louisiana. Credit: Jason Johnston/CNA.
Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Addthis

.- After a long legal fight, the U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a lower court ruling that Benedictine monks in Louisiana have the right to sell their handmade wooden caskets to the public.

“It’s a great day for us, and we’re very thankful that this five-year battle is over,” Abbot Justin Brown of St. Joseph Abbey told The Advocate, Baton Rouge's daily newspaper. “We’re not in the business of going to court.”

The Covington-based abbey had for decades created the caskets to bury deceased religious brothers. It began to sell the caskets in November 2007 through a new company, St. Joseph Woodworks, after Hurricane Katrina wiped out the timberland on which it relied for income, and the caskets were sold at a rate significantly lower than others.

One month later, the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors ordered the abbey not to sell the caskets to the public within the state. State law required sellers of caskets to have funeral director training and to have a funeral parlor with embalming equipment.

The monks stopped selling caskets and filed suit in federal court in 2010, and a U.S. district judge struck down the law in 2011.

In March 2013 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision that the Louisiana embalmers and funeral directors board wrongly required casket sales to be conducted only through a state-licensed funeral director at a funeral home.

The court wrote that the state rule puts coffin customers at a greater risk of abuse and “exploitative prices,” striking down the protectionist law as violating the monks' rights to equal protection and due process.

The state funeral board, which argues that the law helps protect consumers, had appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which chose not to reconsider the appellate court's ruling in favor of the monks.

The abbey had celebrated its previous legal victories, but Abbot Brown said they will likely mark the final milestone “quietly in our prayers.”

“It’s great that we’ve been able to secure our own economic liberty and protect the economic liberty of others,” he told The Advocate. “We always felt the Constitution was on our side.”

The legal fight over the casket regulation drew strong support from both Catholics and non-Catholics, he said.

St. Joseph Abbey is almost 125 years old, and has 34 monks in its community. It operates a college seminary and hosts a retreat center and a bakery that provides bread for the poor of New Orleans.

To help support itself, the abbey now sells a special monastic coffin model for $1,500, while their traditional coffin sells for $2,000. It makes about 200 caskets per year.

In March Abbot Brown told CNA the caskets have “good craftsmanship. They’re very simple but very well done.”

Tags: Benedictines, St. Joseph Abbey

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
The tombs of the early Christians
Missionaries of Africa, called "the White Fathers"
Italian youth give testimony after mission to Peru
Interview with Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See on the persecution of Christians
New book 'The Vatican unknown'
Oct
21

Liturgical Calendar

October 21, 2014

Tuesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 12:35-38

Gospel
Date
10/21/14
10/20/14
10/19/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Eph 2: 12-22
Gospel:: Lk 12: 35-38

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »

Saint
Date
10/21/14

Homily of the Day

Lk 12:35-38

Homily
Date
10/21/14
10/20/14
10/19/14