Political News

Paul Ryan says America needs Catholicism weeks after failed chaplain ousting

Posted May 24, 2018 7:19 a.m. EDT

— House Speaker Paul Ryan made the case Thursday for Catholicism as a faith can help solve the country's problems, just weeks after his office made headlines for forcing the resignation of a Catholic House chaplain.

Ryan, who is also Catholic, lamented at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast what he sees as a deepening sense of "identity politics and tribalism" in the country, as well as a trend of "moral relativism" that is becoming "more and more pervasive."

"If there was ever a time, if there was ever a place where Catholics --- from the clergy to the laity --- are needed, it is here and it is now, helping solve this problem, addressing this challenge," he said. "Our social doctrine is the perfect antidote to what ails our culture."

Ryan said he sees "this tremendous opportunity for Catholics to lead" and "help bring our culture and our country closer to their great moral potential."

"We are uniquely suited for this task -- from the clergy to the laity, we all have got to step up," he added.

Earlier this month, Rev. Pat Conroy, the House chaplain and a Jesuit priest, sent a letter to Ryan's office rescinding his resignation that he made weeks earlier -- a resignation that caused a firestorm across Capitol Hill as members of both parties demanded answers as to why Conroy was asked to leave.

In his letter, Conroy alleged that Ryan's chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, suggested it might be time for a non-Catholic chaplain when he asked Conroy to resign -- an account Burks has denied.

Hours after the letter was sent, Ryan accepted Conroy's decision to stay.

"My original decision was made in what I believed to be in the best interest of this institution. To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves," Ryan said at the time in a statement.

The controversy has largely subsided since the resignation was canceled, and Conroy has continued in his daily duties and activities as chaplain.

Also at the breakfast Thursday, Ryan, who received two standing ovations, alluded to his upcoming departure. Ryan announced last month that he'd be retiring after the November midterm elections.

"Now I do not know what's in store for me next. But I promise you this: I am going to continue thinking about, and talking about, these things," he said. "Whether it is just as a parishioner in Janesville, Wisconsin, at coffee and donuts after Mass, I will be there.