Bishop Weisenburger of Tucson

On November 29 the Most Rev. Edward Weisenburger (56), since 2012 the Bishop of Salina, Kansas, was installed as the Eighth Bishop of Tuscon, Arizona. When he was ordained a bishop in 2012 he assumed a coat of arms that was designed by J.C. Noonan and marshaled to the See of Salina. Once again Mr. Noonan has worked on Bishop Weisenburger’s current coat of arms:

coat-of-arms-for-web

Overall, a very pleasing design and nicely rendered by the artist who is Mr. Noonan’s regular collaborator.

However, the bishop, whether on his own or advised by Mr. Noonan has made the classic mistake of thinking that he is free simply to change the design of his arms on a whim simply because he is taking up a new position. Worse, the changes in the design are justified as harmonizing better with the arms of the See. That is a very poor justification for large scale changes to the design of personal arms, especially when one considers that while it is a long standing custom in the Church in the United States for diocesan bishops to impale their personal arms with those of the See it is not, by any means, a requirement. A good heraldic designer would know that if a man’s personal arms do not harmonize well with the arms of a See then it is, perhaps, a better design decision and a better heraldic decision for the bishop to refrain from marshaling his own arms with the diocesan arms.

As I said in my previous post about the arms of Bishop Siegel of Evansville, this is why it is important to settle on a good design at the time arms are assumed. You CANNOT change them later on a whim! Your coat of arms identifies you. Moving to a new assignment doesn’t change your identity.

The coat of arms originally assumed by Bishop Weisenburger was:

weisenburger_arms_color_400

The charge of the Lamb of God is still prominent but has been moved from the main charge to being in a secondary position on the chief. For some reason the garbs have been eliminated. In the description provided of the arms in 2012 it said they represented the Eucharist and also, “Kansas wheat”. I suppose the thinking was to eliminate them since he no longer would be living in Kansas. But, as symbols of the Eucharist they are still justified in the design. Not to mention that as a part of his coat of arms for five years already they are part of his personal identifying mark.

Now the arrowhead has become the main charge and a star has been introduced. This effectively makes this an entirely new coat of arms.

The new description justifies all this in the following manner:

“The base of the bishop’s personal shield is worked entirely in gold—the color in Catholic heraldry representing the purity of the Triune God, Divinity and truth.  Upon this gold field appears a large stone arrowhead, depicted here as those that may be found in archeological dig sites within the Tucson diocese’s borders. An arrowhead presented in the downward position is a heraldic sign of peace. Moreover, the arrowhead is worked in red, borrowing this color from the Tucson diocesan arms as a particular tribute to his new see. Red also represents the blood of the pierced heart of Saint Augustine, an homage to the patron saint of Tucson’s Cathedral.  The arrowhead serves as a secondary homage to Oklahoma, the bishop’s home state and home archdiocese. Upon the arrowhead sits the six-pointed star of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a secondary homage to the Diocese of Salina, which honors the Blessed Mother as their patron saint under this particular title.”

Now, all that sounds very nice and is probably appealing to many people. The problem is that it expresses very well everything that is wrong with this bishop’s new coat of arms. It falls right into the trap of thinking that his arms is his pictorial CV with it’s introduction of a new charge as an homage to his former diocese and the references to tincture changes to allude to the diocese of Tucson. Instead, the bishop’s original arms (with the blue field) “says” Edward Weisenburger. That gets “married” to Tucson since he is its new bishop and the arms are impaled to represent that “marriage”. That’s it; full stop. There is nothing more to be said, or done or, worse yet, re-done.

It is genuinely a shame that, with all of the best of intentions as well as what is, I’m sure, a real desire to create something unique, so many bishops get it so very, very WRONG!

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2 thoughts on “Bishop Weisenburger of Tucson

  1. Hans van Heijningen

    Yes……….. keeping the personal (sinister) half unchanged is in fact the far best. But when a auxiliary like Baldacchino (Miami) or Cozzens (St. Paul & Minneapolis) will be promoted to residing bishop somewhere (they are young enough for this possibility), than I think we cannot avoid a changing of their personal symbols. Their present c.o.a.’s are rubbish. It is never too late to correct into a heraldic acceptable design.

    Reply
    1. guyselvester Post author

      Changing the personal arms can (and arguably should) always be avoided…because it’s wrong. So, on this point I will disagree with you. The solution is to do it right the first time which far too many American bishops simply can’t be bothered to do. Once the arms are assumed it is too late. To make them acceptable at a later time the solution is not to redesign them. Rather, it becomes the task of a good Heraldic artist to render them in a way that the poor blazon is compensated for by a superior emblazon.

      Reply

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