Political News

Lawmakers seek answers after Ryan asked House chaplain to resign

Posted April 26, 2018 4:58 p.m. EDT

— House Speaker Paul Ryan requested the House chaplain resign from his post earlier this month, and several prominent Democratic lawmakers want to know more information as to why the Jesuit priest was asked to step down.

Father Pat Conroy resigned April 15 after he spent nearly seven years praying at the outset of House sessions.

He wrote two versions of his resignation letters, which were both obtained by CNN by a congressional source.

In the first letter, he wrote "as you requested, I hereby offer my resignation..." The second letter didn't include that he was requested to resign. The first letter also said that Ryan should consult with his chief of staff on a resignation date, but the second letter stated his last day would be May 24.

Conroy did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

Ryan's spokesperson AshLee Strong denied that Conroy was pushed out for anything he said or did, but she didn't elaborate on what triggered the resignation request.

"The speaker consulted with the minority leader, but the decision was his," she told CNN in a statement. "He remains grateful for Father Conroy's service."

An aide for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told CNN she made it clear to Ryan that she had only received positive comments about Conroy's service from House lawmakers. The aide also said Pelosi made it clear to Ryan that she disagreed with his decision.

It's not immediately clear why Conroy was asked to resign. Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly said he wasn't sure why Ryan made the decision and wants to the Wisconsin Republican to answer questions over "this breach that he created." Both Ryan and Connolly are Catholic.

"For a lot of members, the outrage is personal, and it's not about Catholicism," Connolly told CNN. "It's about this relationship with this personal counselor. It's very offensive personally to a lot of members."

A group of bipartisan House members, including Connolly, is drafting a letter to Ryan requesting that he explain why he asked Conroy to resign.

"We are seeking additional information regarding your decision to request the resignation of Reverend Patrick J. Conroy, the 60th Chaplain of the House of Representatives," the letter, which was obtained by CNN, states. "The sensitive nature of this situation requires a description of the process followed to arrive at the decision and a justification for that decision."

Conroy was not afraid to weigh in on political issues in the past. He had mentioned the Republican tax bill in a prayer on November 6, 2017, before the legislation became law.

"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," he said at the time. "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."