Are you KIDDING?!?


Fr. Z’s Ancient Family Arms, Clericalized

Some years ago, in a burst of still slightly youthful zeal, I revamped my personal, clerical, family coat of arms with elements that were “meaningful”. A clerical student, deep student, of things heraldic – though rather antisocial – took me to task for my innovations.   I was, at the moment, unimpressed by the scathing criticism.  I reached out to him a few times about making corrections, but… in vain.  He never responded.  Even recently I attempted contact… alas.  So, I found another herald.

Many ecclesiastical scars, spiritual beatings, and life bruises later, I have simply reverted to my family arms, which are ancient… and mine.  An heraldic artist made a nice version for me.  I am having it embroidered on vestments and I am having a challenge coin made… they should be here soon!

Now I read that the Archdiocese of Detroit, in a fit of meaningfulness, has undertaken to redo the diocesan stemma.  They are making it meaningful.  The results are, predictably, risible.

The same clerical heraldic critic who drubbed me, drubs Detroit.  HERE


detroit arms

Guess which is the new one.

This is just plain DUMB.  I wonder if your opinion might matter.

Whom are they trying to impress?

How many times has unnecessary “rebranding” failed?



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mariana2 says:

    Oh, for heaven’s sake. There are rules to heraldry. You can’t have colour on colour (light blue on dark blue, only colour on metal. I am reminded of JP II with the M in the shield. You can’t have letters.

    How would you even blazon the dexter figures? ‘Two super-imposed roundish figures without faces…’?

    I take the opportunity to say how much I admire the spiffy Zelus domus Tuae motto!

  2. majuscule says:

    It could be worse.

    Like the skiing cyclops Year of Mercy logo.

    Or the World Youth Day Panama dodo logo.

  3. iamlucky13 says:

    Even without Fr. Selvester having taken the time to critique specific design elements, that was a fairly substantial article.

    When I looked at the old and new coats of arms, I immediately envisioned some folks from a Cleveland-based design firm, the archbishop, and a commission of “stakeholders” sitting in a conference room, while the lead from the design firm…uhh…”facilitates the collaborative design process” by suggesting, “Maybe if we make it more abstract, it will be easier to understand.”

  4. Fr. Reader says:

    No it cannot be like the cyclops. It just cannot be. You really need a special gift to be able to produce such thing.

  5. Benedict Joseph says:

    The Church abandoned good sense long ago, theologically and aesthetically. They are bound on the deepest level. One can look forward to exploring greater depths of bad taste in the future. But I must say, the cyclops was preferable to this.
    Absolutely wretched.

  6. SundaySilence says:

    Oooooh. Robot meme rising behind generic $0.99 Christmas card. That’ll have people flocking back to the church for real.

    Oops, haven’t had my first cuppa yet. Must still be asleep cuz that new coat of arms is a nightmare.

  7. Mike says:

    Looks like the wreckovators are back to finish the job.

  8. Adaquano says:

    Looks like they hired a high school graphic design student to promote his youth group’s car wash.

  9. frjim4321 says:

    Somebody in Detroit does not know the difference between arms and a logo.


  10. frjim4321 says:

    (I predict this will be fixed.)

  11. Unwilling says:

    SundaySilence has it.
    R2-D2 redivivus.

  12. cbmiamiensis says:

    IMHO, the original has certain “timeless” quality while this one already looks dated.

  13. Maria G says:

    I saw it for the first time yesterday. I thought that the references that the images point to are relevant for our diocese (St. Anne, Blessed Mother, the Great Lakes, Fr. Solanus, etc.), but the graphics are sad for a diocesan coat of arms. A poster in a high school, maybe. An event logo, sure, but…

  14. Maria G says:

    I stand corrected about two of the symbols: I was told that the water represented our Great Lakes, and that the door was a reference to Fr. Solanus Casey. It appears that this is not the case.

  15. Ocampa says:

    Sheesh Father….it’s just a symbol!

    (As if symbols are meaningless.)

  16. Lurker 59 says:

    I love the open door with dual symbolism — people leaving early from Mass, and, more importantly, people just leaving the Church. It is! If you draw a door like that, that is a door that opens outward not inward.

    But, as someone with a minor amount of a graphics art background, the design is just awful. Ugly, complex, unclear, thematically disconnected, looks like something done in a knockoff version of MS Word by the third graders.

    One of the things that I am glad for is that stuff like this proves that the Church is blessed with ineptitude when it comes to trying to ape the World. It is not hard to come up with high-quality claptrap, but for the Church, it seems to be an impossibility.

  17. Maynardus says:

    My question is: which (arch)diocese with Mass attendance in freefall, a dearth of vocations, and a precarious budgetary situation will be the next to embrace this foolishness?

    “Your Excellency/Eminence – never mind requiring the liturgy to be celebrated ‘by the book’, forget sending emissaries to Wisconsin and Nebraska to see why Madison and Lincoln are getting so many vocations, put that education and evangelization plan on hold – we have the answer right here: check this out, it’s so… meaningful! And relevant!”

  18. Michael says:

    We are in the middle of a true, and holy generation that is promoting the authentic revival of traditional architecture, music, Liturgy, art, etc, etc….. this… a HUGE step backwards.

  19. mburn16 says:

    Hetaldically….this is rough. But I will offer a defense of the Archdiocese. This isnt all style and no substance; Abp. Vigneron just released a 40-page letter that is the result of a year-long synod process. It is focused heavily on Evangelization (in word, thankfully, as well as deed)…and a revival of Christian practice in everyday life. He is quite orthodox, so not all the criticism is necessairily warranted. [Yes, it is. That’s a logo, not a coat of arms. The length of the letter released doesn’t help. If it has to be 40 pages long, there is a problem.]

  20. KateD says:

    Here’s what I see:

    Little cartoon character with two blue eyes and a red nose (lay off the bottle) peeking over at a single mother/widow with a child who is reading to the mother in a flooded house. The cartoon character shrugs as if to say, “I dunno. There’s the door, use it”. Or “get out while the gettin’ is good”? Or maybe the carton figure is shrugging to say in bewilderment, “Why won’t you leave?”

    Some one said the archdiocese is financially in bad shape….maybe the imagery is to indicate they are underwater?

  21. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Could it be said that what the Archbishop is doing in Detroit to its Coat of Arms another bishop [this time, of Rome] did to our liturgy?

  22. mburn16 says:

    I should clarify:

    Criticism of the coat of arms is warranted. Not criticism of the Archbishop or his efforts in the archdiocese.

  23. Sandy says:

    Someone attributed the design to high school graphic designers, but I would guess elementary school age children produced this.

  24. ghp95134 says:

    Hehehehehehe …. Fr. Guy Selvester and I know each other — we participated in the same heraldic foru until I “retired”. I’ve met him a few times when he was on the “Left Coast” visiting family. Our small group of amature heraldists get together once in a while for a “Wappenfressen” [Armorials and Eating] to shoot the breeze, “show-and-tell”, etc. Fr. Selvester’s visits were very welcome and lively. And yes … he has strong opinions regarding Eclesiastical Arms. (^__^)

    (no, the *other* Guy)

    P.S. Father, your Arms are absolutely fabulous! Simple charges and very easy to recognize from a distance — the main purpose for their being used. I love the arrows crossed in saltire …. my arms also have them, but with a dagger surmounted (overlaid).

  25. rdb says:

    Keep the original crest and take the images from the new one and make it the logo for their evangelization efforts. The original crest is timeless the new one will look outdated in a few years.

  26. Geoffrey says:


    This looks more like a “logo”… which is fine, but don’t call or use it as a “coat of arms”. Do they plan on putting this on the archbishop’s chair? Embroidering it on vestments?


    Regarding St John Paul II’s papal arms and the Latin letter “M”: I recall reading that he was “corrected” several times by Vatican heraldic artists, but to know avail. Apparently Latin letters are allowed in Polish heraldry, and so the holy pontiff put his foot down and the Latin letter “M” was retained.

  27. sibnao says:

    To modify Dorothy Parker’s famous criticism, this piece of cheap graphic art looks like it was created on a computer…BY a computer.

    I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and even THEN this type of detailless, slippery visual twaddle was unattractive. It is what I would expect to see above the digital message board at the local non-denominational megachurch, which has so little actual doctrine that it doesn’t even really matter what you make of their symbolic visuals.

  28. Nun2OCDS says:

    It would make a nice felt banner.

    Is it good for anything else?

  29. hilltop says:

    Father is right (again) this is a LOGO
    And featuring Mid-Seventies-Revival graphics!
    Coming soon is Faith & Form’s award for graphic design…

  30. Philmont237 says:

    This was the opinion that I submitted through the website:
    Your Excellency,
    I am a student of vexillology and heraldry, who is a devout Catholic serving in the military, and I must take great issue with your new logo. I cannot in good conscience call it a “coat of arms” because it is not in the tradition of ecclesiastical heraldry, nor does it follow any of the rules of heraldry. I specifically refer to the rule of tincture which states that color cannot be placed upon color, nor metal on metal. There are several other issues, but that is the one rule by which most coat of arms are judged by upon first glance.
    A coat of arms for a diocese should be timeless, follow the rules of heraldry set down by hundreds of years of trial and error, and be sacred. This logo instead looks like it was designed by a newly-graduated graphic designer who knows very little about heraldry or Catholicism.
    Admittedly, the previous coast of arms is greatly lacking. However, I would highly recommend that you revert back to the old coat of arms until a new coat of arms, fitting for a Catholic Archdiocese, can be designed by a qualified herald. Quite frankly, this logo is a laughing stock in the heraldry forums that I frequent. I don´t wish for your great archdiocese to be seen as such.

    In Iesus et Maria,
    Scott ******
    *******, CA

  31. iamlucky13 says:

    On a more positive note, I have read elsewhere that the pastoral initiative that apparently inspired them to update their logo is going to include an increased emphasis on personal prayer, and mandate for an increased level of marriage prep and greater availability of confession. The language is a bit wishy washy, and there was more that could conceivable turn out to be a sort of “spirit of Amoris Laetitia,” but with prayer, repentance, and catechesis in the list, I’m not inclined to jump to cynical conclusions right away:

  32. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    Mariana2, you are right to point out that there are rules for heraldry, most of which are observed for the sake of keeping who-is-who clear. But Geoffrey is quite correct that we should not apply the rules of British heraldry to other nations, and HH JPII’s using letters, as is permitted Polish heraldry, is a fine example of how rules might vary from nation to nation. The bleu celeste in this diocesan symbol is, for instance, unknown in British heraldry, but well established on the Continent. Moreover the Pope is a Sovereign, and, unlike the eternal truths of the Faith, he can alter the rules of heraldry as he desires.

    This brings up a question the answer to which I have been searching long: through what person, persons, office, or offices is the heraldic authority of the Vatican State and the Holy See exercised?

    And for the record, I personally find much of Britain’s nobiliary practices moribund with a regrettable fustiness and chauvinistic insularity (so to speak), and while I prefer the noble simplicity of the old arms shown above, when compared to some of the excesses of 19th century England, or of Germany, or of Spain, I don’t think this new attempt is that bad at all.

  33. Polycarpio says:

    I don’t like the logo. But I disagree with some of the premises of the critique of the process that created the logo. There are a couple of sentences that particularly have a thuddish resonance. One is: “I have to ask why it was deemed important to solicit the opinions of laity and the Presbyteral Council?” That sounds tone deaf. Almost as bad as the logo! Another is: “Not everything connected to the Church has to be a catechetical tool; not everything is a means of evangelization.” As stated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “it is evident how every activity of the Church has an essential evangelizing dimension and must never be separated from the commitment to help all persons to meet Christ in faith, which is the primary objective of evangelization: ‘Social issues and the Gospel are inseparable. When we bring people only knowledge, ability, technical competence and tools, we bring them too little’.” Doctrinal Notes on Some Aspects of Evangelization (emphasis mine).

  34. Servant says:

    Here is my opinion submitted to the Archdiocese:

    To whom it may concern,

    I wish to add my Catholic voice to issue of the new diocesan stemma redesign which was done apparently to make the stemma more meaningful to someone or to some group. While I am not a member of the Archdiocese of Detroit I do care about truth, beauty and goodness. While I certainly applaud the desire to make things more meaningful I do not think the new stemma design is an improvement upon the old one. I find it quite simplistic, modern and dull, akin to what one might see in the banal paper missalettes that are ubiquitous at the new mass. I find the new stemma to represent, in its design/style, to be a lower form of art in line with much of the kitsch that we Catholics have so often been burdened with over the last several decades in the Church. I find the new design to be, in a certain way, a rupture with the beautiful artistic and symbolic traditions of the Church. I have never been able to understand the modern mindset that, while seeking to make something meaningful, ends us doing so much the opposite. I encourage the archdiocese to rethink this new design and to either return to the previous one or delve more deeply into the traditions of the Church in order to bring about a new more beautiful, more meaningful design that is in obvious continuity with the beautiful traditions of the Catholic Church. Thank you and may God bless you.

  35. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Is it just me, or does this remind others of the famous “restoration” of <a href=,_Borja)a fresco in Spain a couple of years ago?

  36. Ben Yanke says:

    That’s so sad. Such destruction of tradition.
    I remember when the same happened here in Madison, in the late 90s. However, thanks be to God that The Extraordinary Ordinary fixed that when he arrived.

    This is the 90s version compared to the original (and current) one:

  37. Lucy C says:

    I live in the archdiocese of Detroit and saw this for the first time on Sunday. My initial reaction was that I didn’t like it, but I wasn’t exactly sure why. After reading through various comments, I realized exactly what it was — it reminds me of the 1970’s banners. It could possibly work as a logo; as a coat of arms, I don’t think so. I seriously hope the archdiocese reconsiders this.

  38. PA mom says:

    Knowing as little as I do about coat of arms, the first change I noticed was that the cross has been removed.

    Not a good first move for an effort of the Church.

  39. Mrs. Amen says:

    Ugh, and I stayed up late Saturday night to wait for the release of the letter. I had no idea my eyes would be assaulted with this hideous monstrosity of a logo. My immediate thoughts were of the awful Year of Mercy Logo and the WYD Panama logo (both terrible, terrible designs). I hold no hopes of this logo growing on me until I see it in the proper medium: emblazoned on a felt banner with a slightly overweight, slightly past middle-aged woman in a lycra onesie with a flowy wrap-around skirt dancing, both liturgically and barefoot, beneath it to the slightly off-key and just a half-beat too slow version of Amazing Grace, as her grey-bearded husband in jeans with a woven leather belt strums his 12-string guitar nearby.

    I am all for clean, modern design in our Church materials, both written and electronic. But, this? This would have looked modern and innovative in the 1970s. A coat of arms shouldn’t look “modern.” This is, at best, an outdated logo; a sub-par and too busy design for an App icon.

    Too bad the logo doesn’t begin to touch the beauty of the letter that was released along side it. Much of the letter might have been better relayed directly to Chancery staff instead of included in a letter to all, but one can hear the love of the Archbishop for his flock and his sincere desire to see people embrace their Catholic Faith.

  40. servulus indignus Christi says:

    And I think it it is a splendid idea. Why?

    Fr. Selevester says: “But, simply throwing out the former coat of arms and redesigning the thing from scratch is foreign to the nature of heraldry.”

    Just like how the archdiocese of Detroit largely through out the Catholic liturgy and accurate proclamation of the Catholic Faith and became something quite foreign from what it was I’m sure when the archdiocese was founded.

    So, a new thing calls for a new logo…why allow the archdiocese to continue use a blazon that represents an entity to which it hardly bears any resemblance now?

    Splendid, splendid I say! Indeed let the whole lot of dioceses change their coat of arms on the quick!

  41. servulus indignus Christi says:


    The archdiocese website even has written right next to their link highlighting the change:

    “Our New Identity” Esatto!

    Fr. Z, you chose the optimal word: risible…and yet…quite sadly, accurate!

  42. Animadversor says:

    Somebody in Detroit does not know the difference between arms and a logo.


    (I predict this will be fixed.)

    Ah, frjim4321, I admire your blithe optimism in assuming that once they know, they will care.

  43. SundaySilence says:

    Fixed :
    1. fastened securely in position.
    synonyms: fastened, secure, fast, firm…

    Yes, it probably will be fixed.

  44. papaefidelis says:

    Interpretation of the “old” heraldic device: “Duck, Duck, Duck, Moose?”

    Interpretation of the new ‘thing’: “Mama’s fixin’ to toss the baby out the door!”

  45. Huber says:

    Father, in the “coat of arms” description, are they careful to point out that the shield in the old coat of arms is now a felt banner?

    A shield is a symbol of intolerance, rigidity – it is intolerant to an attack and repels it. Felt banners on the other hand symbolize inclusivity and diversity – as all sorts of things can stick to them, and they are soft, which represents the softening of theological teaching that comes with broadmindedness.

  46. Absit invidia says:

    The purpose of the coat of arms is to signify authority, achievement, and ranking. One author states that the images composed on coats of arms are in many cases designed to convey a feeling of power and strength. It should also display dignified pride and honor.

    The image on the left achieves that. The one on the right … not so much. It’s as if Dora the explorer drew it.

  47. Packrraat says:

    Reminds me of the felt banners of the 60’s and 70’s. Not a nice memory.

  48. Why didn’t the just use images of old burlap, felt, and bubble letters from the 60’s? They’re missing a big flower image, too.


  49. JustaSinner says:

    Father, why does this dude’s opinion matter? Can’t say I’m impressed with his wonderful coat of arms.
    I liked the creativity of the old United States. Pre-PC; the one where your neighbor parked his lime green GTO next to his wife’s pink caddy and no one posted twenty pix on the Facebook belittling them.
    Having said that, the Detroit Diocese’s new coat of arms looks like it was colored with crayons and left in the sun to melt!

  50. qodrn says:

    I personally don’t like either one. However, I was interested in looking at our coat of arms from the Diocese of Oakland. Here it is:

    Gosh, I don’t know what to say about Oakland’s. It has tools that look like it is a branch of the another religion, some wierd kind of beach, a star, a big tree and a silly looking mitre. Detroit, maybe yours ar not so bad, either one. Of course, your bishop used to be ours….there is nothing heraldic about Oakland’s coat of arms.

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