In dramatic shift, Speaker Ryan to keep Jesuit House chaplain in place

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., leaves a meeting of the House Republican Conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 27, 2018. It was discussed during the closed-door meeting that Chaplain of the House of Representatives Father Patrick J. Conroy, a Roman Catholic priest from the Jesuit order, has been forced out after seven years by Ryan after complaints by some lawmakers claimed he was too political. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Patrick Conroy, S.J., the chaplain for the U.S. House of Representatives who was asked last month by Speaker Paul Ryan to resign his post for what he says are unknown reasons, has sent a letter to Mr. Ryan withdrawing his resignation and requesting to stay on until the end of the year, The Washington Post reported Thursday afternoon. Then, in a dramatic reversal late Thursday, Mr. Ryan’s office announced that Father Conroy would retain his role as chaplain.

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“I have accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as chaplain of the House,” Mr. Ryan said in a statement. He stood by his earlier claim that his decision to oust Father Conroy was based not on politics but on having someone in place who could provide quality pastoral care. In the end, however, Mr. Ryan said the House “is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important post” and that the pair will sit down to discuss how “we can move forward for the good of the whole House.”

Responding to Mr. Ryan’s decision, a Democratic member of congress renewed calls to investigate why Father Conroy had been asked to resign in the first place.

“Father Pat has served the House honorably for more than seven years, and I’m glad that he will remain the House Chaplain. Still, because there are conflicting reports and questions left unanswered, we need a full understanding of what happened,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley of New York said in a statement. “This is why I’ve called for a select committee to lead an inquiry into the events leading up to his abrupt dismissal. I hope Republicans will join Democrats to help us get the facts and ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again.”  

Mr. Crowley introduced a resolution last week to investigate Father Conroy’s dismissal, but it was voted down along party lines.

In his letter to Mr. Ryan, Father Conroy defended his record as chaplain, which had been called into question by Mr. Ryan and other House Republicans in recent days.

“I have never been disciplined, nor reprimanded, nor have I ever heard a complaint about my ministry during my time as House chaplain,” wrote Father Conroy.

“Had I known of any failure in providing my ministry to the House, I would have attempted to make the appropriate adjustments, but in no case would I have agreed to submit a letter of resignation without being given that opportunity,” Father Conroy continued. “Therefore, I wish to serve the remainder of my term as House Chaplain, unless terminated ‘for cause.’”

In a call, Father Conroy confirmed to America that he did send a letter, to both Mr. Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, but he declined to discuss its contents. His last day as House chaplain was scheduled to be May 24.

In Thursday’s letter to Mr. Ryan, Father Conroy said that he was not given a reason for his termination, but he recounted a conversation between him and Mr. Ryan’s chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, last month. Father Conroy said he was told by Mr. Burks “something like ‘maybe it’s time that we had a chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.’”

On Thursday, Mr. Burks denied making those remarks.

“I strongly disagree with Father Conroy’s recollection of our conversation. I am disappointed by the misunderstanding, but wish him the best as he continues to serve the House,” he said in a statement.

Last week, comments form Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina, a Southern Baptist minister, raised eyebrows among those who saw in Father Conroy’s termination an anti-Catholic bias. Mr. Walker 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,” he said.

Reasons for Father Conroy’s dismissal have not been made clear, but last week Mr. Ryan dismissed claims that his decision was based on politics. “This is not about politics or prayers. It was about pastoral services. And a number of our members felt like the pastoral services were not being adequately served or offered,” Mr. Ryan said last week at a conservative gathering hosted by The Weekly Standard.

Father Conroy has decades of pastoral experience, including serving as chaplain at Catholic high schools and universities.

Others have suggested that the dismissal came after some Republican members of Congress took issue with a prayer Father Conroy delivered on the House floor when lawmakers were debating tax legislation.

Father Conroy told The New York Times last week 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.

Editors Note: This story has been updated. 

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Robert Lewis
3 months 2 weeks ago

Excellent! Good for Father Conroy!

Carol Goodson
3 months 2 weeks ago

Mr. Ryan told him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.” DISMISSIVE, DISRESPECTFUL, AND RUDE, Mr. Ryan.

James Haraldson
3 months 2 weeks ago

A decent and proper thing for Ryan to have said to the smug, arrogant, and ignorant priest.

Dionys Murphy
3 months 2 weeks ago

Jesuits as a rule are rarely smug, arrogant and are especially not ignorant. They are the teachers of teachers and generally devoted to learning. Such as learning Christ's call for preferential treatment of the marginalized and poor as espoused by the Church. His call to regard the consequences of financial "reform" on the poor is neither political, nor smug, arrogant or ignorant. It is calling distinct attention to Christ's example and call to us.

Joan Sheridan
3 months 2 weeks ago

I am very happy that FR. Conroy is not leaving.
and I have lost all respect for Paul Ryan

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 months 2 weeks ago

Looks like "The Padre " is willing to play politics!

Robert Lewis
3 months 2 weeks ago

Why? simply because he refuses to resign without being given an explanation for why he was asked to resign? Would YOU allow yourself to be summarily dismissed from a position without being given an explanation? That looks bad on any resume; in fact, I've been told by recruiters that, in that situation, it's better to force your employer to sack you, and then have him "cold-checked" so you can sue him!

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 months 2 weeks ago

Robert
If the good Father felt that way, then why did he resign in the first place ? He could have just said No initially. But there is no PR in that approach. It seems that Father knew how to best "play the game".

donbruno408@sbcglobal.net
3 months 2 weeks ago

I cannot possibly capture, in words, the true depth of respect, admiration and good old fashioned Jesuit spunk of Father Patrick Conroy, SJ, in his well thought out letter to the minion of Damien, Speaker of the House of Representatives Mister Paul Davis Ryan Jr., who is covering his ass by not seeking re-election. There is a reason that The Speaker asked Father Patrick to resign, and most of it centered on his opening prayer on the session of the punitive Tax Bill. Father Patrick Conroy, SJ had the wreckless and opportunist gumption to include the POOR in his prayer. Who does he think he is?? A faithful to the True Canon of the Gospels & Acts, with an intimate relationship with with Christ, understanding that Christ’s very nature was Countercultural, had Service to the Servant at its core, poured out in the Love, which He taught and witnessed and even has lack of vision to understand that Jesus Christ missioned each and every Christian with many missions, chief among them, Love one another as I have Loved you. Standing, breaking bread with and for thos subjugated by institutional Social Injustice, Roman Catholic Christian Jesuit Priest???

Father Patrick’s choice of verbiage is nothing short of genius. In simply stating facts and Truth, he has put Speaker Ryan smack in the bullseye, to answer for his call for resignation.

Let us not forget the multitude of, mostly Southern, Members of the House who are Evangelicals, or even more tragic Prosperity Evangelicals and Baptists, all giving full throated support of the idea that the Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives should have a family. Well, apparently it is open Season on Catholic Christians in the “Bible belt”. Make no mistake, that is a focused agenda and conveniently excludes Catholic Christian Clergy and Religious.

All of this banter as though they EVER took their noses out of the Pentateuch to bother to read the True Canon, to Truly come to know and have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. The most irritating part, at least for me, is all of these people claiming Christianity haven’t a clue what the faith they claim is Truely about. The don’t even know how to use a Bible. I have told countless Evangelicals that the Old Testament is comprised of 4 distinct forms of literature, they loose it. The Book Of Job is actually 2 books combined to give context, they loose it. They believe all the Mosaic Laws are eternal. Unwilling to realize that those laws in Leviticus and Numbers were Divinely Inspired in a specific context, never word for word eternally literal. They were a specific people, in a specific situation, in a specific location, in specific circumstances, in a specific time.

I’ve done my minute meditation. I am proud of the actions of Father Patrick Conroy, SJ, as it the quintessential Jesuit response. May the Lord God, our Creator, watch over, protect and continue to rain ubundant blessings upon Father Patrick. In the Most Prescious Name Of Jesus Christ, amen.

Meg Stahley
3 months 2 weeks ago

I am so proud of you, Father Conroy. Ryan should be ashamed that he caved to bullies.

Meg Stahley
3 months 2 weeks ago

I am so proud of you, Father Conroy. Ryan should be ashamed that he caved to bullies.

Judy McNamara Tripp
3 months 2 weeks ago

I am so pleased that Fr. Conroy stood his ground in the face of Catholic discrimination as mentioned in his letter. What saddens me most is the silence and lack of support from Cardinal Timothy Dolan who is fast to bash the Democrats in a very unchristian way. We have terrible integrity issues in Washington and I am so heartened this Jesuit priest stood his ground in the face of pure Catholic discrimination. All Fr. Conroy did was to speak out for the poor and that was considered a step too far for Paul Ryan.

Bill Niermeyer
3 months 2 weeks ago

I am happy that Rep. Ryan came to his senses. What he was thinking escapes all knowledge and politics.

Sue Harvey
3 months 2 weeks ago

Never take on an Irish Catholic Jesuit, never.

Meg Stahley
3 months 2 weeks ago

Amen.

Philip Fabiano
3 months 2 weeks ago

While I am pleased at this turn of events, Congress should not have chaplains.

Dionys Murphy
3 months 2 weeks ago

Congress has always had Chaplains. As has the Military. There needs to be a Chaplain to help care for the emotional, spiritual and religious needs of soldiers and politicians alike, regardless of whether or not they hold a particular faith or none at all.

Jerome Kiley
3 months 2 weeks ago

It seems from all this that Mr. Ryan acted without a transparent consultation of the members of the House, the grown adults who the chaplain serves. Whatever one's thoughts on the particular chaplain, such a consultation would the most fundamental step in carrying out his "duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves," as he stated. He seems to have a confused understanding of his authority... But to me, it raises the question: why are there not multiple chaplains, for different religions and spiritual needs? Does anyone know? It might decrease political tensions and reduce the power plays. Rather than simply trying to trade out the "bad" one for a "good" one, a leader faithful to their "duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves" would initiate the House's consideration of having a variety of ministers.

Dionys Murphy
3 months 2 weeks ago

Because like most Chaplains, this one serves all faiths or those with no faith, and when he cannot he connects those people to someone who can properly meet them exactly where they are. While he is a Catholic Chaplain, he does not meet only with Catholics or represent only Catholics. It's just the framework he personally works from when he sits with people and meets them as they are, how they are in that moment as human beings.

jackson mark
3 months 2 weeks ago

Here is an information for the treatment discretionary for the comprehensive group. Two or three us are not here to get a handle on London personal shoppers for escorts out of this work. Regardless, when they take in this thing that time they understand the working pace of this thing and want they get this with in the time.

Ellen B
3 months 2 weeks ago

I have no doubt that Fr Conroy's recollection of the conversation is correct. Give 'em hell Pat!

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