Wearing his heritage on his cross

Wearing his heritage on his cross

A reader sends the following:

I saw Archbishop Gregory’s official photo yesterday and I have some concern.

I don’t often write to anyone, and usually just read the blogs with amusement and sometimes despair.  Anyway, I recently moved to Memphis, TN and joined the Cathedral Parish.  As you probably know our bishop J. Terry Steib is Afican-American.  After my first Sunday mass, I noticed on the wall that the bishops coat of arms contained the background colors of black, red, and green.  If you are not aware,  these are the colors of the black nationalist’s movement and pan-africanism.  I won’t go into what they represent.

When I saw Archbishop Gregory’s photo yesterday, I noticed that these same colors were on his pectoral cross.  Now I think that it is commendable that he is proud of his heritage but I haven’t noticed Archbishop O’Malley or Cardinal Rigali sporting the tricolors of Ireland or Italy on their pectoral crosses.  My first reaction was that if the Archbishop wanted to sport colors on his cross maybe red, white and blue would be more appropriate, but even that would smack of a nationalism that our “universal” church should be above.  Perhaps due to my poor catechetical training or the overall loss of Catholic symbols in the last few years I fail to understand the meaning of this very visible symbol.  I would think that it would represent the Archbishop’s office and his leadership position.

As a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop Gregory is a successor of the apostles who were told to go and preach to “all nations”.  Perhaps a simple gold or silver pectoral cross or better yet a simple wooden crucifix would best represent the Catholic people of the Church of Atlanta.

You may not be interested in this at all and view it as petty on my part, but it strikes me as just another Catholic Christian symbol that has lost it’s meaning and is now used as a divisive political statement.

What do you think? Are Archbishop Gregory and Bishop Steib advancing an agenda beyond that of the Gospel?

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • It’s conventional for an ordinary’s coat of arms to represent the see on the left half of the shield and the bishop himself on the right half (that is, left and right as seen from an observer’s POV). 

    A reference to personal details about the bishop isn’t out of place.  For example, Abp. Gregory’s predecessor had colors from his Irish parents’ family crests in his.

  • I think there is nothing to be concerned about.  The Abp. is proud of his heritage as many Catholics are and the unique contribution the heritage brings to the universal church.

  • I think this is absurd.  Archbishop Gregory is American of African descent.  Archbishop O’Malley is American of Irish descent.  If they want to put their family or ethnic background on their coat of arms they may.  O’Malley has his family crest (three ships) on his coat of arms.  If I were a bishop, and I never will, thank God, I would put my family crest (red deer) on my coat of arms.

  • My take to your reader is, as a member of the Archdiocese, is watch your liturgy, it will get even more bizarre than it already now is. Watch the Perpetual Adoration established by his predecessor.  Will it even continue?  And if it does, what new twists will it have added to it?

    Probably the most concerning element to this new archbishop is his allegiance to his mentor, one of the most heterodox prelates in American history. That man is Cardinal “Seamless Garment” Bernardine. 

    Our new Archbishop has given every indication of being a Liberal.  Just what we need.

  • It argues for a certain slackness in Abp Gregory.  It suggests, accurately or not, that his dedication to the cross is less than total.  Insipid adornment of this type became common with priests during the 70’s, a time when a good many clergymen were obsessed with showing that, vicar of Christ or not, they were really cool, relevant dudes.  It was supposed to go over big with the “kids”, but instead has proved embarrassing to all concerned.  It literally screams, “I am not a serious man.”

  • I realize that folks are concerned about the orthodoxy, or lack of same, amongst our bishops.

    That’s fine.

    But must you act silly in order to prove your concern? Because careful or careless scrutiny of bishop’s coat of arms in order to judge his orthodoxy is, in my opinion (which is pretty on the mark…again, in my opinion) pretty lame. Bordering, I might add—and choose to do so—desperate.

    Take a bishop, any bishop, you consider top notch. Post his name here. And then let’s all analyze his coat of arms.


  • Kelly,
    We would not be scrutinizing it if he were not hanging it out for all to see, on, of all things, his cross.  For a Saturday Night Live comedy writer to reduce the ineffable to the absurd is to be expected.  But an archbishop?  For crying out loud, somebody buy the man a lapel pin.