Paul Ryan reverses on firing liberal chaplain

Aaron Brown
May 4, 2018

Fr. Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest who resigned from his post as House chaplain in April and has since said it was due to pressure from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), is now rescinding his resignation and says he plans to remain in the position for at least the remainder of the year. Some Republicans including Peter King of NY offered strong support for the priest after he sent his resignation letter last month, while others such as Mark Walker of North Carolina criticized his ministry. The Wisconsin Republican insisted "my original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution". The Washington Post also reported that Ryan told House Republicans on Friday that he had gotten complaints about Conroy's "pastoral style", according to the paper.

It is unusual for House chaplains to be dismissed, and Democrats said the ouster was tied to a prayer Conroy led during debate over the tax overhaul Republicans passed at the end of past year without any support from the minority party.

Democrats had sought to create a special committee to investigate "the motivations and actions" behind Ryan's decision to fire Conroy, but the move was killed by a party-line vote.

Conroy says that he never spoke to Ryan about his resignation or termination but that his chief of staff Jonathan Burks requested that the chaplain step down. Ryan has said he was dissatisfied with Conroy's pastoral care to lawmakers.

"No such criticism has ever been leveled against me during my tenure as House Chaplain", wrote Conroy on Thursday.

The reversal threatens to sow conflict among Republicans already on edge about who will be their next leader following Ryan's retirement after November's election, when the GOP is at risk of losing the House majority.

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"I inquired as to whether or not it was 'for cause, ' and Mr. Burks mentioned dismissively something like 'maybe it's time we had a Chaplain that wasn't Catholic.' He also mentioned my November prayer and interview with the National Journal Daily", Conroy wrote in his letter.

"But Conroy fired back, saying, 'this is not the reason that Mr. Burks gave when asking for my 'resignation". Ryan said last week that some House members had concerns about Conroy, and that he was not able to adequately tend to the spiritual needs of some Congressmen.

In his letter on Thursday, Conroy suggested his faith may have played a role.

Then, Conroy prayed for lawmakers to make sure that "there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans".

"You may wish to outright "fire" me, if you have the authority to do so", Conroy wrote, "but should you wish to terminate my services, it will be without my offer of resignation, as you requested".

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