(The following is a statement by James G. Goodness, Vice Chancellor and Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Newark)
On Friday, February 23, the Archdiocese received word that a federal judge had ruled against it in a suit challenging the validity of a New Jersey law banning religious institutions from selling inscription rights on monuments for parishioners buried in its cemeteries. The deadline for the Archdiocese to appeal this decision was set for Monday, March 26.
We continue to believe that the law is unjust. It punishes both the Church for seeking to exercise its ministry to parishioners, and parishioners for seeking to exercise their freedom of choice to select a memorial provider.
However, following a thorough evaluation of the matter, including the time and energy required to seek an ultimate resolution of the issue through a lengthy appeal process, we have decided to cease any further efforts to challenge the law. We wish to thank the staff of the Institute for Justice for their legal expertise and professional support over these many months as we, together, undertook this initiative to reverse a law that prohibits the Church from serving the needs of our parishioners through this ministry.
It is important to note that neither the decision of the federal court, nor the decision of the Archdiocese to forego an appeal, will affect the more than 800 parishioners within the Archdiocese of Newark who already have purchased inscription rights for monuments within our cemeteries to memorialize their loved ones. Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese will honor those commitments at their proper time.
Generations of Catholic families have entrusted the ministry of Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Newark to help lay to rest their loved ones on consecrated, protected grounds in perpetuity. For close to two centuries, that ministry has endured through changing times and economic challenges. We remain committed to that ministry, despite this setback.