The Gret Stet of Louisiana has all sorts of weird boards
and such, which ostensibly regulate commerce but are just as often set up
to protect special interests and fatten someone’s wallet. That, in turn, leads to malakatude as you’re about to see.The latest story involves a dispute between the Benedictine Monks and the
Louisiana Board Of Embalmers and Funeral Directors over coffins:
When St. Joseph Abbey decided to open a woodshop on All
Saints Day 2007 to sell handcrafted caskets to the public,
the hope was that the sales would pay for the medical and
educational needs of 36 Benedictine monks.
The board regulating Louisiana’s embalmers and
funeral directors, though, would have none of it. Before a
single casket was sold, it mailed the monks a
cease-and-desist letter, citing a state statute that carried
thousands of dollars in fines and up to 180 days in prison
for anyone selling funeral boxes without first paying the
fees and meeting the requirements necessary to get a license
On Thursday, the 121-year-old abbey fired back with a
document of its own: a lawsuit asking a federal judge to
strike down that law.
funeral homes need to be regulated for health and safety reasons but
this dispute involves neither. This is about money: the Benedictine’s simple
and comparatively inexpensive caskets are cutting into the profits of
funeral homes. I don’t know how many of you have had to pick out a
coffin but the less expensive options cost much more than the
Benedictine’s and are so awful, tacky and flimsy that nobody wants to
bury a loved one therein. The Benedictines are
cutting into the takings of the undertakers who have rolled out some big guns to stifle competition and protect their own bottom lines. Most of the members of the Board are, of course, morticians who want to keep selling expensive caskets to their customers.
Me, I don’t believe in the body in the box thing. I’ve told Dr. A if I go first that I want to be cremated and put in an urn on the mantle next to our cats’ ashes. I’ve never liked open caskets but ended up *really* disliking them after my mother’s funeral. Part of the Greek Orthodox funeral rite involves anointing the remains with olive oil. It creeps me out but I’m the youngest so I didn’t plan the ceremony. My cousin Carol was raised a Lutheran so she nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw this. It takes a lot for a Norwegian from Wisconsin to freak out but this did it. Sorry about that, cuz.
It’s fascinating that this particular dispute arose in South Louisiana, which, at times, is more Catholic than the Pope. And Catholics disfavor cremation for reasons I once knew but am too lazy to look up so the coffin biz is big biz. It’s time for the state to eliminate the coffin cartel and perhaps even the malakatudinous Board of malakas who embalm and overcharge for it.
When I spotted this story I wanted to, uh, box the ears of the undertakers’ board but since that was physically impossible I made them malakas of the week instead.