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Paul Ryan Asked for the House Chaplain’s Resignation, But We Don’t Know Why

Chaplain of the House of Representatives Rev. Patrick Conroy has resigned—but not of his own volition.

According to an April 15 letter made public this week, Conroy wrote to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan: “As you have requested, I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives. The position is one which I did not seek nor strive to assume, but I have seen it as a blessing and I have considered it one of the great privileges of my life.”

Conroy reportedly drafted a second letter as well, which did not mention the request for resignation. This letter states that his last day as chaplain will be May 24.

Conroy, Jesuit priest, has served as House Chaplain since 2011, when he was appointed by then-Speaker John Boehner

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Conroy, a Jesuit priest, has served as House chaplain for the past seven years. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong—Getty Images

Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, has denied that Conroy was forced to resign. “The speaker consulted with the minority leader [Nancy Pelosi], but the decision was his,” Strong said. “He remains grateful for Father Conroy’s service.”

While the first letter suggests that Conroy resigned at Ryan’s prompting, the reasons behind Ryan’s apparent request are not immediately clear. Nevertheless, the move has angered members of both parties.

A bipartisan group of House members is drafting a letter to Ryan, asking that he explain why he asked Conroy to resign. Four sources, two from each party, told The Hill that Conroy said he was told that he “must retire or that he would be dismissed.”

Speculation about Conroy’s alleged ouster is rampant, however. Democrats reportedly believe that Conroy was pushed out “because Republicans thought he was aligned with Democrats.” Others have suggested that a prayer Conroy offered on November 6 of last year could have been the trigger.

The prayer, given just before the House passed the GOP tax bill, could be interpreted to be critical of the bill. “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,” Conroy 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.”

House chaplains offer an opening prayer every day that the House in session. Their position is intended to be nonpartisan.

Conroy does not intend to contest his departure. “I do not want to debate this,” he said. “My understanding going into this is that I serve at the prerogative of the speaker.”