Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) dropped to a level of petty not previously thought possible today, as bipartisan sources from Capitol Hill claim the retiring Speaker forced the resignation of a man of the cloth.
House Chaplain Patrick Conroy resigned today and indicated in his resignation announcement that he had stepped down at Ryan’s suggestion.
“As you have requested, I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives,” the letter addressed to Ryan on April 15, obtained by The Hill, states.
Conroy has yet to offer any additional comment. He served as chaplain since 2011, nominated by then-Speaker John Boehner, and will continue to serve until May 24, his last day.
According to sources, the message was delivered indirectly to Conroy via Ryan’s Chief of Staff, Jonathan Burks. Four bipartisan sources – two from each party – confirmed Conroy was told he must either retire or he would be terminated. Conroy chose the former.
Back in November of 2017, Republicans began to markup their 1%-friendly tax bill. On November 6, the very first day of the venture which ripped the safety nets out from under millions of Americans, Chaplain Conroy offered a prayer urging lawmakers to act as Christ would and remember the poor.
“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.”
A senior Republican aide denies these allegations, but a second Democratic aide remained adamant the termination was “largely driven by a speech on the tax bill that the Speaker didn’t like.”
“Largely” doesn’t imply that the aide is uncertain of the reason, there’s simply another reason some conservatives rejected Conroy: he was once friendly with a Muslim.
“Some of the more conservative evangelical Republicans didn’t like that the Father had invited a Muslim person to give the opening prayer,” the source said.
This issue is of particular interest to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Catholic herself, so much so that she brought up the incident during the Democrat’s whip meeting on Thursday. Pelosi’s revelation of Conroy’s removal reportedly “shocked” whip members.
Ryan has appointed three other government-employed Catholics to search for a replacement, but that doesn’t free him from the bipartisan anger from Catholics on Capitol Hill.
Conroy was certainly no saint himself, however, considering that Pelosi initially rejected Boehner’s nomination of the former chaplain when she learned he was working for the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order which paid out $166 million to victims of sexual abuse concealed by the Catholic Church.
The vetting urged by Pelosi eventually unveiled no wrongdoing from Conroy, and Pelosi eventually endorsed his nomination.
All told, it feels strange to discuss the presence of a religious entity in a government building considering that America was built on the premise of “separation of church and state.” Perhaps both parties should take time to remember that and create truly secular branches of government.