Earlier this month, House Speaker Paul Ryan, dismissed the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy as Chaplain of the Chamber, an unusual and rather unexpected decision that has left many lawmakers questioning the move.
In recent days, the issue blew up as lawmakers began to speak to the chaplain, whose public role is to offer the opening prayer each day the House is in session — but whose private role, far more importantly, is to serve as a pastoral counsel to the entire community on the House side of the Capital.
Reverend Conroy’s departure came out of nowhere as Ryan made no mention of the reasons behind the ouster in an April 16 announcement, leaving the impression among most lawmakers that the priest was leaving voluntarily.
The Republican speaker called Conroy “a great source of strength and support to our community. He is deeply admired by members and staff.”
Several top-ranked lawmakers including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, are upset over Conroy’s send off and have begun circulating a letter to Ryan that will ask for an explanation.
Many Democrats predict that Ryan pushed Conroy out “because Republicans thought he was aligned with Democrats,” according to a senior aide familiar with the discussion. However, house chaplains are supposed to remain nonpartisan, so it’s unclear exactly what, if any, political dispute led to the chaplain’s dismissal.
One thing is certain: Catholic members on both sides of the political spectrums were furious with Ryan, especially after learning that Conroy’s retirement was not voluntary.
Although Ryan’s motive is not certain, Democrats are going to put up one hell of a fight to figure it out.
Conroy is just the second Catholic priest to serve as House chaplain, after the Rev. Daniel P. Coughlin, who was chosen for the post in 2000 after a months-long protest by Catholic lawmakers. Conroy, who has served as chaplain since 2011, declined to comment about the dispute on Thursday. He did, however, announce that his resignation will be effective on May 24.
Featured Image via Getty Images/ Win McNamee