New Orleans bids adieu to legendary archbishop

NEW ORLEANS -- Thousands of mourners paid their final respects Thursday (Oct. 6) to legendary Archbishop Philip M. Hannan as his casket was slowly lowered beneath the sanctuary of St. Louis Cathedral to rest near eight predecessors.

“We thank God this day for Philip M. Hannan,” current Archbishop Gregory Aymond said after a two-hour, 15-minute funeral. “He whispered to God daily his hopes and his dreams. Then he spoke boldly for the respect of life of the unborn, the dying, the poor and those with disabilities.”

Hannan, 98, died Sept 29, 46 years to the day after his appointment to New Orleans, which he permanently embraced as his adopted city. The native Washingtonian also kept close ties as confidant to the extended Kennedy family.

At the end of the funeral Mass, an honor guard of paratroopers from Hannan’s old World War II outfit, the 82nd Airborne, marched to the head of the center aisle and tipped its regimental flags in tribute.

A trumpeter blew taps from the balcony for the former chaplain who ministered to GIs in the Belgian snow during the Battle of the Bulge.

Monksí casket fight heads back to court

NEW ORLEANS -- Louisiana’s funeral industry isn’t ready to give up the fight to preserve its exclusive right to sell caskets.

On Aug. 15, lawyers for the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors appealed a federal judge’s July 21 ruling that allowed a group of Catholic monks to build and sell wooden caskets without meeting the stringent requirements to obtain a license.

Federal Judge Stanwood R. Duval said a state law that restricted casket sales to licensed funeral directors unfairly shielded the funeral industry’s monopoly.

Scott Bullock, a lawyer who represents the monks of St. Joseph Abbey near Covington, La., called the funeral board’s appeal a “fruitless quest.”

“We will continue to represent the monks throughout the appellate process to ensure that this irrational law remains off the books,” he said.

The monks are seeking the right to sell handmade cypress funeral boxes, with proceeds going to pay the monks’ medical and education expenses. Regulators filed suit, saying only they have the right to sell caskets in the state.

Journalist probes churchís murky finances

NEW ORLEANS -- Jason Berry, the muckraking journalist who in two prior books laid bare clerical sexual abuse of children and its cover-up in the Catholic Church, is touring the country in support of a third book investigating the church’s management of its finances, which he describes as chaotic, opaque and occasionally corrupt.

Berry argues that the church’s core problem is the lack of accountability for cardinals and bishops, whether for protecting criminal priests or mismanaging church treasuries.

“The church does not have, and desperately needs, a coherent system of justice,” Berry said in an interview. “The oversight one would expect to see layered into the world’s largest organization is simply not there.”

In the early 1990s, Berry published the first extensive investigation of the clergy sexual abuse scandal that exploded publicly a decade later.

In 2004, with co-author Gerald Renner, he uncovered evidence that the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the charismatic founder of the Legionaries of Christ, had molested his own seminarians but cultivated popularity with the Vatican hierarchy with his fundraising prowess.

Judge: Monks can fight for right to sell caskets

NEW ORLEANS -- Monks at St. Joseph Abbey near Covington, La., can sue for the right to sell handcrafted caskets without a license from the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, a federal judge has decided.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval’s April 8 ruling sets the stage for a June 6 trial, during which the monks’ lawyers will argue that restricting casket sales to state-licensed funeral directors amounts to unconstitutional economic protectionism.

“This ruling is a vindication of what we have been saying all along: Economic liberty is for everyone, including the monks of the abbey,” Abbot Justin Brown said in a statement issued by the Virginia-based Institute of Justice, which is arguing on behalf of the abbey.

St. Joseph Abbey opened a woodshop in 2007 to sell handcrafted cypress caskets to the public; proceeds were intended to help pay the medical and educational needs of 36 Benedictine monks.

The board regulating state embalmers and funeral directors issued a cease-and-desist letter before a single casket was sold, citing a state statute that restricts casket sales to licensed dealers.