Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) has stepped down from the chaplain selection committee in the wake of his controversial comment that he would like the next chaplain to be married and have adult children, criteria that would exclude Catholic priests and nuns, according to a Sunday USA Today report.
On Thursday, Walker, a Southern Baptist minister, spoke to a group of reporters per a Hill report. “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, Republicans and Democrats who are going through, back home the wife, the family … that has some counseling experience,” he said.
Catholic clergy take a vow of chastity upon receipt of the sacrament of holy orders, ensuring that they will never marry or have children.
Walker is reportedly ducking out of the search of his own volition, not under pressure from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) who made his own headlines last week when news broke that he fired current chaplain Rev. Patrick Conroy on dubious grounds. Some suspect that the dismissal came as a result of a prayer Conroy said on the day that the House marked up the GOP tax bill, calling for a lessening of wealth inequality.
Conroy, a Jesuit, is only the second Catholic to hold the position and is scheduled to leave the post in late May.
On Friday, a group of 170 lawmakers reportedly wrote a letter to Ryan demanding transparency about Conroy’s dismissal. “We believe that, absent such details, questions will inevitably arise about the politicization of the process for hiring and dismissing a House chaplain,” it reads. “Not revealing such details could also risk resurrecting prior questions of religious bias.”