Even as a lame duck, House Speaker Paul Ryan has found himself at the center of bipartisan backlash after his decision to push a longtime congressional chaplain out of his position.
As reported by CNN, Ryan asked Father Pat Conroy, the Jesuit priest who has led House sessions in prayer for about seven years, to step down.
In the first of two resignation letters, Conroy included the phrase “as you requested” to introduce his intention to leave the post.
That letter was dated April 15 and a subsequent letter indicated his last day as chaplain would be May 24.
Neither the letters nor Ryan’s staff have publicly acknowledged a reason for the resignation request. A spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Republican reportedly confirmed the decision was not tied to anything Conroy said or how he performed his duties.
“The speaker consulted with the minority leader, but the decision was his,” AshLee Strong said. “He remains grateful for Father Conroy’s service.”
An aide for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi indicated that she expressed her disagreement with Ryan’s decision.
The dearth of details surrounding the request has led several members of the House — on both sides of the aisle — to ask for an explanation.
By most accounts, the chaplain had performed admirably and Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., was among those who felt Ryan’s move was abrupt and divisive.
“For a lot of members, the outrage is personal, and it’s not about Catholicism,” he said. “It’s about this relationship with this personal counselor. It’s very offensive personally to a lot of members.”
Connolly is among several legislators in both parties behind a letter seeking additional information.
“The sensitive nature of this situation requires a description of the process followed to arrive at the decision and a justification for that decision,” the letter states.