Paul Ryan and Congress are embroiled in a bizarre controversy over the dismissal of House chaplain

  • Speaker Paul Ryan ousted the House chaplain in April.
  • Lawmakers are at odds about why Rev. Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest, was forced to resign.
  • A top Democrat triggered a vote on Friday to create a select committee investigating the matter, but Republicans rejected the resolution.

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Paul Ryan is coming under fire from lawmakers after abruptly dismissing the House’s chaplain, a Jesuit priest who had served in the role since 2011. The controversy has caused a stir among lawmakers who believe the firing was unjust and out of line.

Rev. Patrick Conroy, who is just the second Catholic priest to serve as the House chaplain, announced his resignation earlier this month at Ryan’s request.

What is unclear is why Ryan, who is also Catholic, ousted Conroy. Some members of Congress believe that Ryan made the call because Conroy invoked the a desire for fairness in the new Republican tax law during a prayer on the House floor. But Ryan assured members that was not the reason for Conroy’s firing.

“He assured us that had nothing to do with it,” said Rep. Mia Love after Ryan addressed the matter to the GOP conference,Roll Call reported.

Instead, Ryan suggested that Conroy was not meeting the pastoral needs of members of Congress, according to those in the conference. However, lawmakers said that Conroy had always met their needs, including after the assassination attempt on House Majority Whip Steve Scalise during a congressional baseball practice in 2017.

Conroy “was responsive to me and my sons after the shooting last year,” said Rep. Joe Barton, whose sons were present during the shooting in Virginia. “He has always been positively interactive with me. To my knowledge, he was available and helpful to any team member last year.”

“During Father Conroy’s entire service, I’ve never received a complaint from our Members about him pastoring to the needs of the House,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

Pelosi added that Conroy’s “abrupt, unjust dismissal is hard to understand and impossible to support.”

The fiasco culminated on Friday when Rep. Joe Crowley, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, triggered a vote with a privileged resolution that would have created a select committee to investigate Conroy’s dismissal.

The House rejected the proposal 215-171, in part because the resolution used partisan language and referred to the tax law as the “GOP tax scam.”

The controversy is far from over, however. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat, is said to be working on a discharge petition to prevent Conroy’s resignation.

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