In the face of widespread condemnation, House Speaker Paul Ryan backtracked on his decision to call for the resignation of Father Patrick Conroy.
On the National Day of Prayer, House Speaker Paul Ryan was shamed into backtracking on his recent move to oust Father Patrick Conroy from his position as House chaplain.
Conroy had informed Ryan earlier in the day that he was rescinding his resignation offer and planned to stay on through the end of the year.
In a powerful letter to the speaker, Conroy claimed he had been pressured into quitting without cause and suggested that Ryan did not have the authority to push out a House chaplain.
“I have never been disciplined, nor reprimanded, nor have I ever heard a complaint about my ministry during my time as House chaplain,” Conroy wrote.
Conroy all but dared Ryan — albeit, very politely — to fire him.
“You may wish to outright ‘fire’ me,” he wrote, adding “should you wish to terminate my services, it will be without my offer of resignation, as you requested.”
A short time later, Ryan folded.
“I have accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as Chaplain of the House,” Ryan announced in a written statement.
Citing the controversy over his initial call for Conroy’s resignation, Ryan said he had decided to reverse course because he didn’t want to face a “protracted fight over such an important post.”
Conroy’s abrupt and unexplained “resignation” last month created rare bipartisan tension, particularly among Catholic members of the House, who were furious that Conroy, a Jesuit priest, became the first chaplain in the history of the House to be forced out of office. Since then, there have been suggestions he was forced out for offering up a prayer of national equity.
As one senior Democratic leadership aide told Shareblue Media at the time, “We believe he was pushed out because he was praying for justice and fairness.”
Last November, when the House was voting on a GOP tax giveaway to billionaires and corporations, Conroy urged compassion.
“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 during the daily prayer.
Soon after that, “A [Ryan] staffer came down and said, ‘We are upset with this prayer; you are getting too political,'” Conroy told the New York Times. The next time he saw Ryan, the speaker told him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”
In a letter to Ryan posted on Medium, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber and Minister Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove quickly labeled Ryan’s forced ouster of Conroy as nothing less than a “true attack on religious liberty.”
Despite the controversy, enough Republicans last Friday voted to block a House investigation into Conroy’s heavy-handed ouster.
Conroy has served as House chaplain since 2011, when he was first nominated by then-Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH).
And despite Ryan’s best efforts, it looks like Conroy is there to stay.
Caroline Orr also contributed to this article.