The Slatest

House Chaplain Rescinds Resignation in Scorching Letter to Paul Ryan

Father Patrick Conroy.
Father Patrick Conroy.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The chaplain of the House of Representatives, whose ouster by Speaker Paul Ryan blew up the Capitol last week, has rescinded the resignation he had previously submitted at Ryan’s request. And Ryan, in a statement issued late Thursday afternoon, says that he has “accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as Chaplain of the House.”

In a two-page letter sent to the speaker on Thursday, Conroy had claimed that Ryan’s chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, suggested that the Republican leadership would prefer to have a chaplain who wasn’t Catholic. Conroy’s letter mentions, as has been previously reported, that it was Burks who came to see him on April 13 asking for a letter of resignation.

“I inquired as to whether or not it was ‘for cause,’” Conroy writes, “and Mr. Burks mentioned dismissively something like ‘maybe it’s time that we had a Chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.’” Burks also mentioned Conroy’s November prayer on tax reform, which some viewed as hostile to the GOP legislation, as well as an interview with the National Journal Daily that some Republicans didn’t appreciate.

“I strongly disagree with Father Conroy’s recollection of our conversation,” Burks said in a statement late Thursday. “I am disappointed by the misunderstanding, but wish him the best as he continues to serve the House.”

Conroy also takes issue with Ryan’s public argument that the firing was because Conroy wasn’t meeting members’ pastoral needs.

“In fact, no such criticism has ever been leveled against me during my tenure as House Chaplain,” he writes. “At the very least, if it were, I could have attempted to correct such ‘faults.’ In retracting my resignation I wish to do that.”

He adds that he doesn’t want his resignation “to be construed as a ‘constructive termination.’”

“You may wish to outright ‘fire’ me, if you have the authority to do so, but should you wish to terminate my services, it will be without my offer of resignation,” he says.

Father Conroy’s forced resignation hit on tensions between Catholic and Protestant Republicans on the Hill. His letter rescinding that resignation will make it much, much worse.

“My original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution,” Ryan said in his statement. To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves. It is my job as speaker to do what is best for this body, and I know that this body is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important post.”

He will meet with Conroy next week.

This post has been updated.