House Chaplain Patrick Conroy was forced to resign his position by GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan.
The Jesuit priest’s resignation letter, which was submitted to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in mid-April, states that it was done at Ryan’s request.
“As you have requested, I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives,” the April 15 letter to Ryan, obtained by The Hill, states.
His sudden resignation has sparked a furor on Capitol Hill, with several sources saying Ryan was bothered by a prayer before the GOP tax bill that urged lawmakers to be “fair to all Americans.”
“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,” Conroy said in the prayer. “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.”
Another source said conservative Republicans didn’t like that the chaplain had invited a Muslim person to give an opening prayer.
“Some of the more conservative evangelical Republicans didn’t like that the Father had invited a Muslim person to give the opening prayer,” the source told The Hill.
“He was fired,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said. “I talked to the chaplain directly. Paul Ryan sent his chief of staff down to the chaplain’s office and said, ‘The speaker wants your resignation or obviously, you’ll be dismissed.’”
“All of us want some explanation for what is it you have done. Why would you do this to somebody who is well-liked and respected broadly on both sides of the aisle? Any why would you do it to him and damage his good name?” Connolly said.
In an email obtained by Politico, Conroy told a friend that Ryan explicitly asked for his resignation.
“I had no intentions of leaving,” Conroy wrote in the email. “I doubt that anything will change Ryan’s mind, but I think it important that Members know the truth.”
Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said the “speaker is a proud, deeply Catholic person and this charge is not only false but outrageous.”
“The speaker told Leader Pelosi that he would not move forward with the decision if she objected and she chose not to,” she added.
A Pelosi aide confirmed she was given advance notice by Ryan but disputes that she could have prevented Conroy’s resignation. Pelosi made clear to Ryan she disagreed with the decision and told the speaker she had only heard positive feedback from members about Conroy, according to the aide.
Conroy has served as House chaplain for seven years. Before that, Rev. Daniel Coughlin was the House chaplain for more than a decade, the first Catholic priest in history to hold that position.