Political News

Paul Ryan Swears Father Conroy Back In as House Chaplain

Posted May 8, 2018 3:50 p.m. EDT

Speaker Paul D. Ryan swore the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy back in as the chaplain of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, re-establishing the Roman Catholic priest in the post he had contentiously left just weeks earlier.

Ryan had stirred a bipartisan tempest with his abrupt move to dismiss the chaplain last month, a decision Conroy publicly protested.

Catholic lawmakers rallied behind the chaplain, who is a Jesuit priest, and last week Ryan agreed to reinstate Conroy after the chaplain rescinded his resignation, which he said had been forced.

On Tuesday, Ryan suggested the two men were working to reconcile, telling reporters that “Father Pat and I had a good cup of coffee this morning.

“I think we can ultimately make improvements so that everyone has access to the pastoral services they’re looking for,” he said.

Conroy said that his coffee with the speaker was “very pleasant” and that they would be meeting for dinner next week.

“We will be meeting again to talk about the deficiencies that were mentioned in his statements, and how they can be rectified,” Conroy said.

He said he did not have more information on what those deficiencies were.

Conroy said he was not initially given reasons for his dismissal. But in a letter retracting his resignation last week, Conroy said Ryan’s chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, had told him something along the lines of, “Maybe it’s time that we had a chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.”

He said Burks mentioned an interview the chaplain had given with The National Journal, and a prayer he had given on the House floor in November, when Congress was debating tax legislation.

“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 prayed. “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.”

Conroy said Ryan had responded to the prayer by saying, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”

In a closed-door meeting with Republicans, Ryan had said that the decision was not based on politics or prayer and that he had received complaints about Conroy’s pastoral care, according to several lawmakers who attended.

Conroy has served in the role since 2011, when he was nominated by Speaker John A. Boehner, a fellow Catholic.