Paul Ryan Reverses Course, Accepts House Chaplain Rescinding Resignation


House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday reversed his decision about the chaplain of the House of Representatives and said Father Patrick Conroy would keep his job.

In a letter to the Wisconsin Republican, Conroy wrote, in effect, that Ryan or the House would need to fire him if the intent is to have him leave before his current term ends at the end of this Congress. His last day would have been May 24.

Ryan said the decision had been "based upon feedback I've been getting for quite a while from members". Ryan says, once again, that his concern in asking for the resignation was only about "pastoral services" not politics.

Update 5:45 CT, May 3: House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement Thursday that House Chaplain Patrick Conroy will no longer be dismissed, the Hill reported. I inquired as to whether or not it was "for cause", and Mr. Burks mentioned dismissively something like "maybe it's time that we had a Chaplain that wasn't a Catholic".

Instead, Conroy says top Ryan aide Jonathan Burks told him the speaker wanted his resignation, and cited a prayer a year ago that was potentially critical of the GOP tax bill.

Ryan has said the reason he pressured Conroy to resign was because he didn't believe members were being "adequately served". "Help them to make wise decisions in a good manner and to carry their responsibilities steadily, with high hopes for a better future for our great nation", the chaplain said in a prayer opening the session on November 6, as the tax reform bill was being considered.

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"No such criticism has ever been leveled against me during my tenure as House Chaplain", wrote Conroy on Thursday.

Regardless of Ryan's reasoning, Conroy is a controversial figure who has openly opposed Catholic teaching on homosexuality.

"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", the priest continued.

Then, Conroy prayed for lawmakers to make sure that 'there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans'.

He went on to whine a bit about his impeccable intentions, and said he'd "sit down with Father Conroy early next week so that we can move forward for the good of the whole House". Rumors flew as to what would have caused Ryan to ask Conroy, whom lawmakers described as a "fairly popular figure", to step down. The inclusion of specific comments from Ryan's chief of staff in Conroy's letter, especially the line suggesting Conroy was being replaced because he was Catholic, made this an unwinnable situation for Ryan. "You may wish to outright 'fire" me, if you have the authority to do so, but should you wish to terminate my services, it will be without my offer of resignation".