Monks Persecuted for Burying the Dead. Works of Mercy, Religious Freedom and Economic Liberty
offers the Free Enterprise System as a vehicle for citizens to pursue happiness, right? Well, not for the Monks of St. Joseph Abbey. Complaints were filed against the Monks by a Funeral Home in the local area which was threatened by the competition. They alleged that "illegal third-party casket sales place funeral homes in an unfavorable position with families." The competitor went to Court and obtained a "cease and Desist" order against the Monks.
According to the State of Louisiana the Monks were violating the positive law by fulfilling the eternal law. The competitor cited a statute and insisted that no-one could sell "receptacles ... where human remains are ... placed for disposition" without paying fees, passing an exam, serving an apprenticeship and obtaining a funeral director's license. What is clear is that the coffins offered by the Monks were a threat to other manufacturers because of the lower price and the superior quality of the workmanship. The rest is subterfuge and bureaucratic nonsense.
These men are MONKS! The Monastery was going to be required by the regulations to become a funeral parlor rather than a monastery. The insanity of such an asinine approach is evident to anyone with any common sense. Efforts to amend the unjust regulations were met with fierce lobbying by economically interested parties. The Benedictine Monks were threatened with injury to their livelihood, an inability to care for their own brothers, and civil and criminal penalties - all for following the teaching of the Catholic Church.
The "Social Teaching" of the Catholic Church is a response to the admonition in the 25th Chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew concerning our obligations to live the faith, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' (Matthew 25:47) It addresses one of many foundational teachings of the faith, we are commanded to bury the dead! For the Christian, the sacrificial act of Joseph of Arimathea in offering the tomb within which the disciples interred the Body of Jesus - and from which he would be gloriously raised - has hallowed every tomb. It has also made the act of burial and the offering of such a place of repose an extraordinarily holy act. It was over the tombs of the early Martyrs that the Christians gathered to celebrate the Holy Eucharist!
The "Compendium of the Social teaching of the Catholic Church" in a section treating economic matters explains: "The Church's social doctrine considers the freedom of the person in economic matters a fundamental value and an inalienable right to be promoted and defended. "Everyone has the right to economic initiative; everyone should make legitimate use of his talents to contribute to the abundance that will benefit all, and to harvest the just fruits of his labour".This teaching warns against the negative consequences that would arise from weakening or denying the right of economic initiative: "Experience shows us that the denial of this right, or its limitation in the name of an alleged 'equality' of everyone in society, diminishes, or in practice absolutely destroys the spirit of initiative, that is to say the creative subjectivity of the citizen".(Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church # 336)
The Good News is that the Monks of St. Joseph Abbey did not back down. They sought legal help. The lawyers from the Institute for Justice, a public interest Law Firm in Virginia which focuses on cases involving economic liberty, stepped in. They now represent the Monks in a lawsuit which argues that the State law violates the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Jeffrey Rowes, the group's senior attorney, said, "The state is trying to require them to abandon their calling as Benedictine monks. ... They want to sell wood boxes, not become funeral directors."
We invite our readers to lend their voice to the growing chorus supporting the Monks. As Abbot Justin Brown recently explained: "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.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."
"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.If monks are being attacked, nobody is safe. Economic liberty is important to everyone. Yet countless entrepreneurs today are being kicked out of work or threatened with fines and jail because powerful industry insiders have teamed up with politicians to make laws that create cartels."
For more on the monks' lawsuit, click here for their wonderful story.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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