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Grant of Episcopal Arms to Bishop Pat Buckley

Attention has been drawn on the discussion group rec.heraldry to a rather unusual grant of arms by the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland in 2000, to Bishop Pat Buckley (illustrated above). Bishop, formerly Father Buckley is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church, and as the title of a book of his indicates, he is very much 'a thorn in the side'. Indeed the incorporation of a black sheep on his shield would appear to be a humorous self-reference. Bishop Pat has indeed had an interesting career, and his website reveals that he will wed divorcees, bless gay and lesbian unions and has even ordained a woman ( All commendably latitudinarian, but surely it causes confusion that the grant to Bishop Pat portrays similar ecclesiastical insignia as appear on grants to regular bishops (see for example grant of arms to Bishop McAreavey of Dromore in 1999,, where the tassels are green as opposed to gold).

The Deputy Chief Herald's patent states that he is acting 'on behalf of and by the authority of the Government of Ireland', and styles the grantee 'The Right Reverend Patrick Buckley, Presiding Bishop of the Oratory Society of Larne' (, not linked to main page). Bishop Buckley was consecrated by an excommunicated bishop, so that his ecclesiastical title is considered to be 'valid but unlawful' in canon law, but whatever that means exactly, his position is hardly regular. In view of the fact that priests who committed more grievous offences were not defrocked as he has been, it does appear that Pat Buckely was harshly treated by his Church. However, there must be some disappointment at the fact that he is apparently replicating the hierarchical structures he has criticised by having himself appointed a bishop, and furthermore we now find that he has enhanced his prestige by securing a not inexpensive grant of episcopal arms from an Irish state office. Having brought sufficient discredit on itself through its registration of bogus chiefs, questionable titles and spurious grants of arms, the Office of the Chief Herald would have been well advised to steer clear of appearing to validate a controversial schismatic episcopal title.

The Office of the Chief Herald has also provoked comment by granting or confirming supporters to holders of questionable 'feudal titles' and to the 'head of the family of Joyce' (, not linked to main page), and has departed from precedent by including supporters in the grant of arms to the current President Mary McAleese (, linked to main page). Indeed, one wonders if it is wise for the Office of the Chief Herald to give special marks of distinction to holders of high office in church or state, or to others whom it may decide to favour for whatever reason. In short, if there must be granting of arms in a supposedly egalitarian republic, these should consist of a shield, crest, motto, helmet and mantling only.

Sean Murphy
Centre for Irish Genealogical and Historical Studies
3 November 2002