Ryan Pushed House Chaplain Father Conroy to Resign

Some members questioning speaker’s decision

Father Patrick J. Conroy, left, consoles Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., center, as Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., looks on at the conclusion of a vigil and moment of silence on U.S. Capitol Steps on Monday, June 13, 2016, in remembrance of victims of the Orlando shooting. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Last week Speaker Paul D. Ryan sent out a press release announcing Father Patrick J. Conroy would step down as House Chaplain in May with a statement of kind words for the priest.

Now it’s come to light that Ryan pushed Conroy to resign, and some members are questioning why.

In his April 16 statement Ryan called Conroy “a great source of strength and support to our community.”

“He is deeply admired by members and staff,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “Father Conroy’s ministry here has made a difference, and we are all very grateful to him.”

The release also noted that in the coming weeks Ryan would consult with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about a successor.

“The speaker consulted with the minority leader, but the decision was his,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said. “He remains grateful for Father Conroy’s service.”

How much influence Pelosi will have in the selection process remains to be seen, given that she did not support his decision to oust Conroy.

Ryan gave Pelosi advanced notice that he planned to ask Conroy to leave and the California Democrat made it clear to Ryan she disagreed with his decision. Pelosi had only received positive comments from members about Father Conroy’s service, a Pelosi aide said.

Pelosi and Ryan have not yet discussed candidates to succeed Conroy yet, the aide said, only the process by which they’ll conduct that search. Conroy’s resignation letter points to Ryan as the source of his decision to leave.

“As you have requested, I hereby have offered my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United State House of Representatives,” he wrote to the speaker. “It has been an honor to serve the People’s House for these nearly seven years.”

An initial version of the letter, dated April 15, said the timing of Conroy’s departure was to be determined in a conversation with Ryan’s chief of staff. An updated version with the same date replaced that sentence with, “After mutual consideration, it is determined my final day will be 24 May 2018.”

Conroy concluded his letter with well wishes for the House and “for your upcoming search for a worthy successor in the Office of the Chaplain.”

Conroy’s office declined to comment.

As chaplain, Conroy provides counsel to members and offers a daily prayer during the House’s opening proceedings. On most legislative days Ryan gavels in the House and is present for the opening prayer.

Conroy offered the blessing during the late Rep. Louise Slaughter’s congressional memorial service in the Capitol last week. Ryan attended and delivered the sole Republican tribute.

Alex Gangitano contributed to this report. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.