Chap­lain Con­roy out­lasts Ryan, con­tin­ues his role in new Congress

Lodi News-Sentinel - - RELIGION - By Kather­ine Tully-McManus

WASHINGTON — Father Pa­trick J. Con­roy will re­main in his role as House Chap­lain for the 116th Congress, after a year full of tur­moil sur­round­ing the role.

The House voice re­cently voted to in­stall the House of­fi­cers — but not with­out an ex­tra hur­dle for the chap­lain.

House GOP Cau­cus Chair­woman Liz Cheney called for a sep­a­rate vote on the chap­lain, sep­a­rat­ing Con­roy’s fate from that of his fel­low House of­fi­cers like the clerk, sergeant-at-arms and chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi granted Cheney’s mo­tion and Con­roy was ap­proved.

The House chap­lain opens ev­ery House ses­sion with a prayer or brings in a guest chap­lain to say a prayer. The chap­lain also is re­spon­si­ble for “pas­toral coun­sel­ing” for the House com­mu­nity. That in­cludes ar­rang­ing me­mo­rial ser­vices for House mem­bers and their staff and per­form­ing mar­riages.

For­mer chap­lains served from two to 21 years. Con­way’s term as chap­lain be­gan in 2011.

In April 2018, then-Speaker Paul D. Ryan moved to fire Con­roy, a Je­suit priest. Ryan faced push­back from Democrats — in­clud­ing fel­low Catholic Nancy Pelosi — and from a few Re­pub­li­cans.

Mem­bers op­pos­ing Con­roy’s ouster raised con­cerns about re­li­gious free­dom and if Ryan was be­ing pres­sured by evan­gel­i­cal Re­pub­li­cans whose views may not align with Con­roy’s Je­suit be­liefs. Je­suits fo­cus on ed­u­ca­tion and ser­vice to oth­ers, and are known for hav­ing more lib­eral re­li­gious views com­pared to some more tra­di­tional Catholics and other re­li­gions.

Ryan’s staff had raised con­cerns about a prayer Con­roy de­liv­ered Nov. 6 dur­ing the tax over­haul de­bate.

“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 in the prayer.

But Ryan de­nied that he fired Con­roy over the prayer.

Pelosi said in a state­ment at the time that she ex­pressed “force­ful dis­agree­ment” with Ryan over his decision to ask Con­roy to re­sign.

“It is truly sad that he made this decision, and it is es­pe­cially be­wil­der­ing that he did so only a mat­ter of months be­fore the end of his term,” the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat said. “The Speaker did this know­ing that he had no power to fire Father Con­roy and in­stead chose to force him out by de­mand­ing his res­ig­na­tion.”

There is no stated process in House rules for re­mov­ing the chap­lain.

Ohio Demo­cratic Rep. Marcy Kap­tur and Ger­ald E. Con­nolly worked on a priv­i­leged res­o­lu­tion to re­scind Con­roy’s res­ig­na­tion and re­in­state him as chap­lain through the end of 2018.

“I have rarely seen mem­bers this an­gry about any­thing. Be­cause it’s per­sonal,” said for­mer Rep. Joe Crow­ley. He noted that Con­roy had ties to many mem­bers of the House, hav­ing coun­seled them and presided over many re­li­gious ser­vices, in­clud­ing wed­dings and bap­tisms.

In a let­ter re­scind­ing his res­ig­na­tion — pro­vided ini­tially at the speaker’s re­quest — Con­roy es­sen­tially dared Ryan to fire him.

“Had I known of any fail­ure in pro­vid­ing my min­istry to the House, I would have at­tempted to make the ap­pro­pri­ate ad­just­ments, but in no case would I have agreed to sub­mit a let­ter of res­ig­na­tion with­out be­ing given that op­por­tu­nity,” Con­roy wrote. “There­fore, I wish to serve the re­main­der of my term as House Chap­lain, un­less ter­mi­nated ‘for cause.’”

Ryan ac­cepted it and Con­roy stayed on as chap­lain. He’s stay­ing even longer, as Pelosi’s choice for House chap­lain for the next two years.

TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE FILE PHO­TO­GRAPH

The Rev. Pa­trick J. Con­roy, chap­lain of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, de­liv­ers the in­vo­ca­tion at a Con­gres­sional Gold Medal cer­e­mony on Jan­uary 17, 2018, in the Ro­tunda of the U.S. Capi­tol.

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