Rep. Mark Walker has removed himself from the committee to find a new chaplain for the House of Representatives after some of his comments were criticized as anti-Catholic.
Walker’s spokesman confirmed his removal in an email to USA Today.
“Walker has stepped down from the selection committee,” spokesman Jack Minor said.
Walker was on the committee to find a replacement for House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy, who was ousted by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
“We have not yet announced the bipartisan screening panel as we are awaiting [Minority] Leader [Nancy] Pelosi’s selections,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said. “That said, Mr. Walker will not serve in a formal capacity but we will welcome his contribution as a former pastor. We will send guidance on the screening panel in the near future.”
Walker, who is chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, was criticized when he said the next chaplain should be “somebody who has a little age, that has adult children, that kind of can connect with the bulk of the body here, Republicans or Democrats as far as what we’re going through back home — you’ve got the wife, the family, things you encounter — that has some counseling experience or has managed or worked with people, maybe a larger church size, being able to have that understanding or that experience.”
Watch: What We Know About the House Chaplain Controversy So Far
His comments were interpreted at the time as being exclusionary toward Catholic priests like Conroy, who take a vow of celibacy.
Walker later clarified that he was not excluding Catholics from the search.
Walker’s spokesman denied that the North Carolina Republican was pressured by the speaker to leave the committee.
“No, Walker has chosen to remove himself from the process,” he said.
Minor defended his boss’s comments that received initial criticism.
“He also said that the chaplain would be advantaged by having life experiences that allows them to relate to Members — frequent time away from home, families, public roles,” Minor said. “In laying out these recommendations, Walker made clear that he was not excluding any faith or denomination and that these traits were not qualifications,” he said.
Conroy’s removal raised a ruckus in the House amid allegations Ryan removed Conroy, a Jesuit priest, because of a prayer during the tax debate.
Democrats proposed a select committee to investigate Conroy’s sacking. But the motion was killed, with only two Republicans voting for it.
Minor did not return Roll Call’s request for comment.