House clergyman said on Thursday he was stunned when spokesman Paul D. Ryan called on him to resign two weeks ago, a plea he did, but never received a reason for
The sudden resignation of The pastor, Patrick J. Conroy, shocked the members of both parties. He had served in the role since he was nominated in 2011 by spokesman John A. Boehner, a Catholic colleague. In an interview Father Conroy was categorical: his departure was not voluntary.
"I was asked to resign, that's clear," said Father Conroy. Why, he added, "that's unclear."
"I certainly have not received anything in writing," he said. "Catholic members on both sides are angry."
Father Conroy said he received the message from Ryan's chief of staff. "The speaker wants your resignation," Father Conroy recalled. He agreed.
"As you have requested, I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives," Father Conroy wrote in a letter to Mr. Ryan a few days later. "I wish the House of Representatives all the best and for your imminent search for a worthy successor in the chaplain."
His last day will be May 24th.
Father Conroy's resignation is even more controversial in Catholic circles because Mr. Ryan is a Catholic Conservative, while Father Conroy is a Jesuit, a branch considered by some to be more liberal.
Asked if differences in politics were a factor in his downfall, Father Conroy said, "I do not want to politicize that, I'm thinking about it, but I'm not contributing."
But, he said, Capitol Hill is an inherently political place. "There are Catholics who are Republicans and there are Catholics who are Democrats," he said. "I do not know if there is a religious split, it's certainly a political one."
Although Father Conroy said he did not know whether politics was behind his departure, he pointed out a prayer he made in November in the House when Congress debated tax reform laws. 19659002] "May all members take care that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have made it possible for some to achieve great success while others continue to fight," he prayed. "May their efforts these days ensure that there are no winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits shared and shared by all Americans."
About a week later, Father Conroy said he had heard of the spokesman's office. "An employee came down and said: We are angry about this prayer, you are becoming too political," he said. "It points to me that there are members who have talked to him about being angry about this prayer."
Shortly thereafter, when he saw Mr. Ryan himself, Father Conroy said the speaker told him, "Padre, you only, I have to stay out of politics."
"I've been trying for seven years," said Father Conroy. "It does not sound political to me."
"If you are a hospital chaplain, you will be praying for health," he added. "If you're a congressman, you'll be praying about what Congress is doing."
Father Conroy said that was the only time someone from the speaker's office had angered him to go into politics. "I've never talked about being political in seven years," he said.
An Advisor to Congress for Mr. Ryan said that no specific prayer led to this decision.
Father Conroy said that this was his only communication with Ryan or his office, as he was called to resign, arrived Wednesday morning when the spokesman thanked him for his seven years of service before the House welcomed President Emmanuel Macron of France said.
Father Conroy said he did not ask Mr. Ryan why he was asked to resign and he does not plan to challenge his departure. "I do not want to discuss that," he said. "My understanding is that I serve the speaker's prerogative."
But legislators of both parties demand answers.
Representatives Walter B. Jones, Republican of North Carolina, and Gerald E. Connolly, Democrats of Virginia, send a letter to their colleagues to sign, and ask Mr. Ryan for more information.
"I'm very upset," Mr. Jones said. "If this is true in terms of prayer and we have religious freedom in America, what about religious freedom on the floor of the house?"
"Members of the House choose the chaplain," he continued. "This is not a one-man decision, the house should have the facts, whatever the problem is."
Mr. Connolly said he was worried about the precedent that Mr. Ryan's decision might set. The letter asks the speaker for a description of the process that has been followed and a justification for the decision.
"We believe that without these details there will inevitably be questions about the politicization of the recruitment and dismissal process, chaplains," says the letter. "If you do not reveal such details, you might risk reviving previous issues of religious bias."
"Pat is a pretty popular figure in the House of Representatives," Mr. Connolly said. "He counseled people and cared for their personal and spiritual needs, which is a personal and shocking decision that affects us all to a great extent."
Because of the uncertainty surrounding his resignation, Father Conroy said he had Received phone calls from friends and members of the house, some had unjustly congratulated him on his retirement or worrying that he was ill.
"They asked me why I'm leaving, why I am leaving them, congratulations on your retirement, what's next," he said. "To which I say: & # 39; I did not look for a job. & # 39;
"This information has been largely shocked," he continued. "That's the enjoyable part."
Father Conroy said that he had enjoyed being the chaplain and that he had not politicized his work.
"I found it liberating myself because I did not do it. I was allowed to get involved in the politics of the day, which was very healthy for me," he said. "I am grateful that this was my service."
When Pope Francis visited the United States in 2015, Father Conroy gave him a personal blessing in Spanish. He traveled with congressional delegations to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. He was also a personal spiritual counselor to many members of both parties and their families.
"I'll miss those things," said Father Conroy. But he added, "There will be another ministry."