A congressional chaplain who was forced to resign last week by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., reportedly ran into trouble with Republican lawmakers in part because of a prayer he gave last fall while Congress was deliberating over the tax reform law.
One of the first orders of business when Congress began was recommending and swearing in a chaplain to preside over daily prayers that opened House proceedings.
Former U.S. House Chaplain, Father Pat Conroy, speaks at the National Statuary Hall of the Capitol on September 27, 2017.
Conroy does not intend to contest his departure.
The chaplain is an officer of the House, a position that the full House votes on at the start of each Congress. Nevertheless, the move has angered members of both parties.
Ryan did not even have the courtesy to inform Conroy of his decision in person.
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Cleaver noted that the Jesuit's career and reputation is forever damaged by the episode, "especially when a Catholic priest dismissed - oh jeez, all this other stuff that's been going on with these priests, and this is bad, this is absolutely terrible".
Democrats and Republicans want to know whether Conroy was sacked because Ryan objected to a prayer Conroy offered in the House chamber on November 6, as the Ways and Means Committee began work on a trillion-dollar, deficit-financed tax bill created to benefit the wealthiest Americans. Others have suggested that a prayer Conroy offered on November 6 of past year could have been the trigger.
"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", he added.
In addition to being an admirable sentiment, this is an innocuous and nonpartisan prayer.
Conroy said that Speaker Ryan had recently told him, "Padre, you just got to stay out of politics".
In a statement released after the vote, Joyce said he believes Conroy is a "fair and thoughtful man who carried out his mission in a professional manner".
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On Friday, Rep. Joseph Crowley, another New York Democrat, introduced a privileged resolution on the House floor, calling for a committee to investigate.
But Pelosi said she's never received such a complaint.
Ryan made no mention of the reasons behind Conroy's ouster in an April 16 announcement, in which he called him "a great source of strength and support to our community" and said the priest is "deeply admired by members and staff". The Republican Party speaks often of its support for religious freedom, but perhaps they don't mean to preserve it for everybody.
Conroy has served as the chamber's chaplain since 2011 but offered his resignation last week at Ryan's urging.
Rep. Pete King, Republican of NY, told the network that Ryan disputed the notion the priest was sacked for the tax prayer. He said he hopes to find "someone who has the instincts to go and minister to those that are hurting as opposed to someone always waiting [for someone] to come to them". As speaker, he is supposed to act with the best interests of the institution in mind. There is no stated process for removing the chaplain, unlike other offices of the House, which have rules saying they can be removed by the full House or the speaker.
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