- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2018

Many House lawmakers are seething at Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s decision to oust the chamber’s chaplain, the Rev. Patrick Conroy, with Democrats saying Republicans couldn’t stomach the social-justice message of some of his prayers.

Nearly 150 representatives signed onto a letter demanding an explanation from Mr. Ryan, while Rep. Joe Crowley, New York Democrat, forced a floor vote on a resolution that would have established an inquiry into the firing.

The vote failed, 215-171, but the questions continued to roil the chamber.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the dismissal “unjust.”

“I have expressed my forceful disagreement with this decision to the speaker,” said Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat. “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.”

Mr. Ryan tried to quell complaints, including from within the GOP, at a Republican meeting Friday morning, saying he’d decided it was time for a change.

He said some members had told him Father Conroy wasn’t meeting their spiritual needs. The chaplain typically opens House sessions with a prayer, and provides counsel to members who ask for it.

Rep. Mark Walker, North Carolina Republican, complicated matters when he said last week, according to The Hill newspaper, that the next chaplain should be someone with a family — which would exclude Catholic priests and nuns, who take vows of celibacy.

Mr. Walker, a Baptist minister, later said he misspoke.

Rep. Peter King, New York Republican who is Catholic, said members deserve a better explanation from Mr. Ryan.

“The speaker said it was just because certain people felt he was not complying with their requests or was not giving them good counseling. I never heard that from anyone,” Mr. King said.

The Hill, which last week broke the news of questions about the firing, also reported there were suspicions among Democrats that some southern Republicans had pressured Mr. Ryan to act because of Father Conroy’s Catholicism — particularly since he is of the more liberal Jesuit order.

The three most recent House speakers — Mr. Ryan, Republican John A. Boehner, and Mrs. Pelosi — are all Catholic. The Rev. Daniel Coughlin, the previous House chaplain, had been the first Roman Catholic to hold the position.

Close to 150 members, nearly all of them Democrats, sent a letter to Mr. Ryan calling for additional information, amid speculation that a prayer during last year’s debate over the GOP’s tax bill also might have had something to do with the dismissal.

“The sensitive nature of this situation requires a description of the process followed to arrive at the decision and a justification for that decision,” the letter says. “We believe that, absent such details, questions will inevitably arise about the politicization of the process for hiring and dismissing a House chaplain.”

Father Conroy told the New York Times that he was asked to resign about two weeks ago, and that he was blindsided by the request from Mr. Ryan’s office. The speaker’s office announced the coming departure on April 16.

Father Conroy said that while he didn’t know whether politics was behind his departure, he heard from the speaker’s office about a week after delivering a prayer in November that Mr. Ryan thought he was getting too political.

In the prayer, delivered as the House was debating President Trump’s tax cuts, the priest said: “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. 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.”

This article was based in part on wire-service reports.

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