Members of Congress are enraged after Speaker Paul Ryan asked House Chaplain Father Patrick J. Conroy to submit his resignation. Congressman Joe Crowley has called for a special committee to investigate.
Fr. Conroy, a Jesuit priest, has served as the House Chaplain since his appointment by Speaker John Boehner in 2011. In this time, his daily opening prayers have offered words of comfort and purpose to members of the House of Representatives during such trying times as the Sandy Hook school shooting, mass shootings in Orlando, Florida, and Las Vegas, Nevada, Hurricanes Sandy, Harvey, and Irma, and much more.
The 67-year-old submitted his resignation to Ryan on April 15, at Ryan's own urging. His last day will be May 24. This marks the first time a House chaplain has been forced out of his appointment, with rumors circulating that Ryan told Fr. Conroy he was getting too political.
The Hill obtained a copy of his resignation letter, which stated: "As you have requested, I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives."
A statement issued to media from Ryan's office claimed responsibility for the decision.
"The speaker consulted with the minority leader, but the decision was his. He remains grateful for Father Conroy’s service."
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office said that she had told Ryan she did not agree with his decision.
It is believed that Ryan, a conservative Catholic, was irked by Fr. Conroy's more liberal Jesuit values, and that he went after Fr. Conroy following his opening prayer to Congress on November 6, 2017, when the Republican tax bill was being considered.
"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," he said.
Members of Congress from both parties have expressed their outrage, with Congressman Joe Crowley (D - Queens, The Bronx) taking to the floor to propose an investigatory committee.
A letter to Ryan, started by Congressman Gerry Connolly (D - Virginia), is circulating and has gathered 73 signatures thus far, the Independent reports.
“There is a view that Mr. Ryan did not want a chaplain who talked about social justice, and he found a way to rid him of ‘this troublesome priest’,” he said.
“It’s very disturbing. Mr. Conroy had a very intimate relationship with the members. He blessed their babies, consoled them after a death and counseled them during difficult times,” he said. “It’s censoring a person’s view of Christian teaching.”
Republican Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina also disagreed with Mr Ryan’s actions. “It is just a sad commentary on America in the House that is supposed to be the House of the people – if we want to protect freedom of speech, a prayer here, then where are we going to protect it,” he told the paper.
Do you think Ryan was right to ask Fr. Conroy to resign? Share your thoughts on Facebook or in the comment section.