Cardinal Tobin of Newark

On Friday, January 6, 2017 His Eminence, Joseph Cardinal Tobin,  CSsR the Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria delle Grazie a Via Trionfale and former metropolitan archbishop of Indianapolis, age 64, will be installed as the tenth bishop and sixth metropolitan archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.

A Redemptorist by Religious Profession he makes the same, long-standing error of including the arms of his Religious Order in his personal arms implying jurisdiction over it. At one time he did actually serve as General Superior of his Order and could have arguably impaled a personal coat of arms with the Order’s arms. However, he did not become a bishop, and assume a coat of arms, until after his tenure as General. As I say, it is a common error for Religious prelates but it is, nevertheless, most definitely an error.


8 thoughts on “Cardinal Tobin of Newark

  1. Hans van Heijningen

    I think father Guy makes an error: sure, mgr. Tobin was a general superior of his Order, but bishops mostly adopt the Order-arms in their own arms only because they are MEMBER of that order. See f.i. cardinal O. Malley (OFM), the Redemptorists who have been bishops of Paramaribo or the Dominicans who have been bishop of Willemstad.
    In Tobins first coat of arms: yes, the CSSR-field can point to his function, but in the cases where he was archbishop of Indianapolis / Newark, these symbols only point to his being a Redemptorist.

    But luckily he was one of the (few) new bishops (Burbidge also) at present who did not change the personal halves of their shield every time he changes in function.

    1. guyselvester Post author

      Hans: I understand quite well that many bishops incorporate the arms of a Religious Order to which they belong into their own arms to indicate membership in that Order. That is still wrong. That’s what I criticized. Membership in an order does NOT entitle a man to adopt the order’s arms into his own precisely BECAUSE it implies jurisdiction over it in a heraldic context. A single member of an order cannot adopt the entire order’s arms as though it is his possession. That is precisely what including it in one’s personal arms says. While it is true that many bishops (and some popes…Pius VII) have done this that doesn’t make it correct. In each instance where this happens it is WRONG. I mentioned that Cardinal Tobin HAD BEEN general of the Redemptorists to point out why it MAY have been thought advisable to include the arms of the Order in the arms he adopted when he was first made a bishop (as Secretary of the Congregation for Religious). As general of the Redemptorists he did not have a coat of arms. Regardless, the practice of Religious placing the arms of their order in their personal arms to indicate membership in that order is heraldically WRONG and should be avoided. I’m sorry that wasn’t clear to you in my original post. Just because many examples of the same mistake can be pointed to doesn’t make a mistake not a mistake.


        Fr. Guy, I had also this experience making a coat of arms for a bishop in the Philippines. Of course, I am was not aware of this fact then. But many more artists and bishops would think this is ok if there are no guidelines which the Holy See, for example, could release on this so that bishops and ecclesiastical artists have a guide. It’s because even if we have references such as the books of Heim, Montemozolo, etc., these are often no read by other ecclesiastical heraldry artists and bishops more so if there is no sort of recommendation by the Holy See. I think its time that perhaps you or a bishop or an episcopal conference request some sort of recommended guide or reference which would serve as a means for bishops and heraldry artists in every region or country to understand the principles and do’s and dont’s you explain here in your blog so that, as you say, these errors could truly be avoided.

      2. guyselvester Post author

        I couldn’t disagree with you more. It’s not up to the Holy See to do this. The knowledge is out there. The problem is that there are too many people who undertake to design coats of arms or to render them artistically who have no idea what they’re doing but they still don’t seek out the advice of someone who does.


    Well Fr. I see your point. But we also have to consider that not all people sought for advice have a large knowledge about the subject, hence the tendency to make the same heraldic mistakes either based on the example of previous designs. Then there are cultural factors also in consideration for some countries not because of the heraldist but because of reference also to previous designs which perhaps were not thoroughly checked. In my thinking, if we keep it as it is, there will still be the same mistakes you have mentioned. Unless, of course, someone from each country will study on the subject and be entrusted enough by bishops, for example, to do their coats of arms for them. Good thing, for example, you are there to advise American bishops though I know that you have not/could not (depending on circumstances) advise them all since there are also heraldic works there that you see as against the rules. Perhaps, in the future, if no Holy See intervention (in your opinion Fr. at least) is possible, perhaps it would be best for bishops/scholar-priests or laymen themselves to have people trained to enhance the “pool of experts” who have sufficient capacities to advice officially for future works on Roman Catholic ecclesiastical heraldry.

    1. guyselvester Post author

      …or, people who don’t know what they’re doing should stop involving themselves, no matter what country they live in, and instead help bishops find competent help. Pretty easy to do this with a world wide web.


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