House Republicans rebuff investigation into firing of Jesuit chaplain

In this June 2016 photo, Patrick Conroy, S.J., chaplain of the House of Representatives, delivers an interfaith message on the steps of the Capitol in Washington for the victims of the mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)In this June 2016 photo, Patrick Conroy, S.J., chaplain of the House of Representatives, delivers an interfaith message on the steps of the Capitol in Washington for the victims of the mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A day after reports emerged that Patrick Conroy, S.J., was forced to resign his role as House chaplain at the behest of Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, congressional Democrats, led by Representative Joe Crowley of New York, proposed forming a committee to investigate Father Conroy’s ouster.

The proposal to investigate the removal of Father Conroy was rejected in a vote along party lines, with just two Republicans, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania and Tom Reed of New York, voting with Democrats not to kill the proposal. Three Republicans voted present.

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Speaking on the House floor surrounded by colleagues, Mr. Crowley said the firing was “concerning to a number of members on both sides of the aisle” and that it “compromised the dignity of the House of Representatives by politicizing the office of House chaplain.”

Mr. Crowley, noting that Father Conroy is the first Jesuit and only the second Catholic priest to hold the role of chaplain, pointed to reports that Mr. Ryan and other Republican members of Congress were unhappy with the chaplain for delivering a prayer in November they viewed as partisan. Father Conroy gave the prayer on the House floor, and some may have interpreted it as being critical of the G.O.P.-backed tax bill that was being debated at the time (and was subsequently signed into law).

“As legislation on taxes continues to be debated this week and next, may all Members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great Nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle,” Father Conroy said on Nov. 6, 2017. “May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

Mr. Crowley said the firing “compromised the dignity of the House of Representatives by politicizing the office of House chaplain.”

On Friday, Mr. Ryan’s spokeswoman tweeted that the speaker “didn’t fire [the chaplain] over a prayer,” but she did not offer a reason why Father Conroy was asked to resign. Father Conroy told The New York Times on Thursday that after he offered the prayer on taxes, Mr. Ryan told him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.” He told the newspaper that this was the first time the speaker’s office had raised questions about the content of his prayers.

“Dismissal of Father Conroy following this prayer shows Republicans’ true refusal to embody the values of faith and charity in legislative work,” said Mr. Crowley, who is Catholic, on the House floor on Friday. He added that the House of Representatives benefits from “being guided by a chaplain with a commitment to caring about those most in need.” He also invoked Pope Francis, referring to his latest apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate,” which the congressman said is a reminder to Christians to “care for the poor, the sick and the immigrant.”

After the news of Father Conroy’s forced resignation was made public, Mr. Ryan told Republican colleagues on Friday that some lawmakers felt Father Conroy was not providing appropriate pastoral care to House members, The Hill reported. Republican Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado told reporters that the speaker’s office had received complaints about Father Conroy’s pastoral care, and Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, another Republican, said it was “time for a change.”

Republican Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado told reporters that the speaker’s office had received complaints about Father Conroy’s pastoral care.

According to Roll Call, a Republican member of Congress said anonymously that Father Conroy did not reach out to members following a 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball game. But that notion was disputed by several members of the team of both parties, who praised Father Conroy’s outreach following the attack. Father Conroy prayed about the shooting on the House floor last June.

But comments from a Republican helping to lead a search for the next chaplain left some Catholic members of Congress wondering if an anti-Catholic bias was at work. Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina, a Southern Baptist minister, said he wanted Father Conroy’s successor to be somebody with children, which would preclude nearly all Catholic priests and nuns.

“I’m looking for somebody who has a little age, that has adult children, that kind of can connect with the bulk of the body here,” Mr. Walker said on Thursday.

While Mr. Walker said that this desire does not explicitly rule out a Catholic chaplain, he said that “when you walk the journey of having a kid back home that’s struggling or made some bad decisions, or when you have a separation situation, or your wife’s not understanding the [congressional] schedule, having somebody who’s walked in those shoes allows you to immediately relate a little bit more than others.”

According to the House of Representatives website, the chaplain offers prayers and also “provides pastoral counseling to the House community, coordinates the scheduling of guest chaplains, and arranges memorial services for the House and its staff.”

Rep. Mark Walker on a new chaplain: “I’m looking for somebody who has a little age, that has adult children, that kind of can connect with the bulk of the body here.”

Some Democrats said the firing and Mr. Walker’s remarks were signs of an anti-Catholic bias.

The chief of staff to Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey, Paul Tencher, tweeted that Father Conroy’s firing was “despicable and anti-Catholic,” adding, “Will Speaker Ryan be denied the Eucharist?”

Gerry Connolly, a Democratic representative from Virginia, took issue with Mr. Walker’s words.

“We, on its face, would consider such a remark to be anti-Catholic—on its face. So you’re eliminating anyone who’s a Catholic priest, a Catholic nun, from being the chaplain of the House. The largest denomination in the country,” he said, according to The Hill. “Now, I don’t know if Walker knows that’s what he really said. But to any Catholic ears, that’s what we heard.”

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Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
4 weeks 1 day ago

This is turning into a political issue.

The Republicans hired him and they fired him. He succeeded another Catholic chaplain who was the first Catholic to be House chaplain. The Republicans hired this chaplain too. So it has been 18 years of a Catholic chaplain and all because of Republicans.

You can read Fr. Conroy's bio on the House chaplain site. Has a lot of degrees including a law degree. Maybe Mr. O'Loughlin should link to it.

The prayer was more than 4 months ago but it seems to be working. I just got back from Fedex and was talking with some of their service people about possible new equipment to make the shipping go faster. The customer service guy said that Fedex invested 200 million because of the tax laws and everyone got raises.

Thank you Fr. Conroy!!!

I asked the FedEx guy who should he thank and he immediately said Mr. Trump. So the tax plan seems to be working as planned. The rich are paying more and the working class are getting raises and lower taxes. In addition he should thank Paul Ryan who has been pushing these tax cuts for years.

J Cosgrove
4 weeks 1 day ago

type in "chaplain.house.gov/chaplaincy" in your browser to get the webpage for Fr. Conroy on the House chaplain site.

Robert Lewis
3 weeks 5 days ago

Corporations, with the vast portion of their dividends going to the 1%, are paying much less, and in seven years the working poor will be paying more. Also, at the same time, there will be greater expenditure on financing wars. This so-called "tax reform" will do nothing to shrink the ever-expanding socio-economic gap that is destroying democracy in America. I say this as someone who is heavily invested, because of family wealth, and who knows full well that I and many of my peers have done NOTHING to deserve this windfall. I have discovered that the Merril-Lynch-type folks, in order to ensure the greatest "return" on investments, have no hesitation in closing factories, mines and other businesses, and shipping employees' jobs overseas, so that "goods" are produced in Third World sweatshops, and these "tax reforms" and Trump's "trade wars" will only exacerbate the situation. Joseph Kennedy III knows more about this than you do, Mr. Cosgrove: https://www.facebook.com/CongressmanJoeKennedyIII/videos/21911502643398…

J Cosgrove
3 weeks 5 days ago

in seven years the working poor will be paying more.

You mention that the poor will pay more in 7 years. Why 7 years, because the Democrats prevented making the tax breaks permanent. You should have mentioned that along with your comment.

the vast portion of their dividends going to the 1%

Yes, the rich own a fair percentage of the stocks but they will pay taxes on these dividends. The 1% pay almost 50% of the taxes in the US and the share has gone up since the new tax law. So you are stating the obvious like it is a new problem when it isn't. Trump and the Republicans are making it better for the lower income and middle class.

Also many of those dividends and appreciated stock prices are going to the average person through pensions, insurance plans and mutual funds? About half the US is invested in the stock market in someway. And who does that help, It is best to include all the effects of the tax law not just a few which you seem not to like.

will do nothing to shrink the ever-expanding socio-economic gap that is destroying democracy in America.

How is it destroying democracy? If it is by buying political parties then it is the Democratic Party that must be being bought since most of the rich vote for Democrats.

I say this as someone who is heavily invested, because of family wealth, and who knows full well that I and many of my peers have done NOTHING to deserve this windfall.

You have all sorts of options. One is to give it back to the government. Second, you can give it to a charity of your choice. Three you can invest it in new projects that will provide jobs for people. I could go on but there are several more options for you to choose from that are constructive. Most of the money gets invested and who does that help. It most often ends in investments that create jobs. So are you against investments that help the poor?

closing factories, mines and other businesses, and shipping employees' jobs overseas, so that "goods" are produced in Third World sweatshops

You must love President Trump since he is trying to bring jobs back to the US. How successful that is we will have to see but he is trying to do this.

these "tax reforms" and Trump's "trade wars" will only exacerbate the situation.

Joseph Kennedy III knows more about this than you do,

Kennedy's comments are a non-sequitur so I would not hold him up as an expert. What is the rationale that the tax cut caused the plant closing. Are you saying that without the tax cut that Philips would have kept the plant open? You should lay out your rationale for this because Kennedy has not provide any.

But maybe he is just partisan and is distorting the situation because it will play well with some people. Is he just cherry picking something or is he indicating a trend that began long ago. Nothing points to the tax law as the reason for the plant closing.

Please be consistent.

Vincent Gaglione
4 weeks ago

On the first story published on this topic, long before the reactions became public and the topic a political issue, I wrote:

“Am I to presume that the position is at the behest and prerogative of the Speaker of the House? In which case, the Speaker exercised his prerogative.
BUT, (there’s always a “BUT”) who will replace Fr. Conroy? Let me guess…a good, old-fashioned, down home, evangelical preacher?...a Muslim imam?.....a Jewish rabbi?....how about a nun chaplain?...a Hindu priest?...a Shinto priest?...the list is unending. Perhaps in this one way the Speaker finally recognizes the need for diversity in the US House of Representatives. I look forward to his choice.”

I relish the fact that my first guess for a replacement seemingly fits the needs of some Congresspeople!

But, my real reaction to all the comments on this website for all the stories about the issue is the following: the Catholic conservatives who post here have “en masse” defended the forced resignation with little regard to either the facts, the alleged “political” prayer, or the anti-Catholic sentiments and biases expressed by too many Republicans in defense of Ryan’s decision. Oh yes, and they also proclaim religious discrimination loud and clear constantly. It provides me a big loud laugh!

Frank Huber
3 weeks 6 days ago

I am saddened by the divisiveness in our culture, but admit I am also greatly saddened by the Speaker’s behavior. As a Catholic, it seems he is less than willing to stand up for his reported faith. But, Ayn Rand wouldn’t either.

Myrtle Tran
3 weeks 1 day ago

Better look this, more informative.

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