Ryan Accepts House Chaplain’s Un-Resignation After Charge Of Religious Bias

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 11: Reverend Patrick J. Conroy,Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, speaks on the East Front steps of the Capitol during the 9/11 Congressional Remembrance Ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call Group

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced Thursday that he would allow House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy to remain in that position after Conroy rescinded his earlier resignation.

The House chaplain announced his resignation last month after being pressured to do so by Ryan’s office. He alleged Thursday that Ryan’s chief of staff cited his religion, Catholicism, as one reason Ryan wanted him to resign.

“I have never been disciplined, nor reprimanded, nor have I ever heard a complaint about my ministry during my time as House Chaplain,” Conroy, who has been House chaplain since 2011, wrote in his letter to Ryan. (View a copy of the letter, published online by NBC News’ Alex Moe, below.)

Ryan responded Thursday by saying he had “accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as Chaplain of the House.” (Read Ryan’s full statement below.)

“My original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution,” Ryan continued, noting he intended to meet with Conroy next week. “To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves.”

“It is my job as speaker to do what is best for this body, and I know that this body is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important post,” Ryan added.

Conroy’s resignation announcement and subsequent public feuding with Ryan ballooned into scandal. Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) stepped down from the committee to select the next chaplain after suggesting the next candidate be married with children, a requirement that would exclude Catholic priests.

Conroy alleged Thursday that when Ryan’s chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, informed him Ryan was asking for his resignation, he “mentioned dismissively something like ‘maybe it’s time that we have a Chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.’”

Conroy, a Jesuit, is the second Catholic to ever serve as House chaplain.

“He mentioned my November prayer and an interview with the National Journal Daily,” Conroy added, referring to Burks.

Conroy appeared to be referring to his Nov. 6 prayer, in which he said:

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. 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.

Burks responded Thursday to Conroy’s claims, according to NBC News, by saying “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.”

Conroy specifically disputed Ryan’s public justification for asking for his resignation, in which Ryan said that “a number of our members felt like the pastoral services were not being adequately served, or offered.” Ryan also mentioned inadequate “spiritual counseling,” Conroy said.

“This is not the reason that Mr. Burks gave me when asking for my ‘resignation,’” the reverend wrote.

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

View a copy of Conroy’s letter below via NBC News’ Alex Moe:

Read Ryan’s response to Conroy’s letter below:

Speaker Ryan Statement on the House Chaplain

WASHINGTON—House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) today issued the following statement:

“I have accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as Chaplain of the House. My original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution. To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves. It is my job as speaker to do what is best for this body, and I know that this body is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important post. I intend to sit down with Father Conroy early next week so that we can move forward for the good of the whole House.”

This post has been updated.

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