Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to fire House Chaplain Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, the Jesuit priest who has served in the position for the past seven years is not reflecting well on the supposed devout Catholic. The priest was blindsided by the request for his resignation, he says in an interview with The New York Times, but he suspects it was all about politics and says “Catholic members on both sides are furious.”
Though Father Conroy said he did not know whether politics were behind his departure, he pointed to a prayer he had given on the House floor in November, when Congress was debating tax overhaul legislation.
“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,” he prayed. “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.”
About a week later, Father Conroy said, he heard from the speaker’s office. “A staffer came down and said, We are upset with this prayer; you are getting too political,” he said. “It suggests to me that there are members who have talked to him about being upset with that prayer.”
Shortly after, when he saw Mr. Ryan himself, Father Conroy said that the speaker told him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”
“That is what I have tried to do for seven years,” Father Conroy said. “It doesn’t sound political to me.”
Of course it doesn’t sound political to a Catholic priest to preach to his congregation about caring for and serving the poor. Because he’s a priest. That’s just what they do. “If you are hospital chaplain,” Conroy said, “you are going to pray about health. If you are a chaplain of Congress, you are going to pray about what Congress is doing.” This is the only time he’d ever been reprimanded for a prayer.
Catholic members, both Democratic and Republican, are livid. Two of them, Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC) and Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA) are circulating a letter to Ryan demanding an explanation. “If this is true about the prayer, said Jones, “and we have freedom of religion in America, how about freedom of religion on the floor of the House?” Connolly adds “Pat is a fairly popular figure in the House. […] He’s counseled people and tended to their personal and spiritual needs. This is a personal and jarring decision that affects all of us in a big way.”
It sure seems like Ryan doesn’t want that popular figure and his reminders about their responsibility to ALL the people around when they start debating the farm bill, and the massive cuts to food assistance it includes. Or the proposal from Housing Secretary Ben Carson to triple the rents poor people would have to pay with housing assistance. That wouldn’t be convenient for Ryan as he tries to make his last, sociopathic mark on the country.