In scathing letter, House Chaplain rescinds resignation after feud with Paul Ryan

Rev. Patrick Conroy chaplain of the House of Representatives in

The chaplain of the House of Representatives, who was recently forced to resign by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, said Thursday that he is rescinding his decision - in effect forcing Mr. Ryan to try to fire him.

"Father Conroy's service as House Chaplain has been a blessing to Members on both sides of the aisle", said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in response.

Conroy served as House chaplain since Ryan's predecessor, Republican John Boehner, nominated him in 2011.

Conroy alleged Thursday that when Ryan's chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, informed him that Ryan was asking for his resignation, he "mentioned dismissively something like 'maybe it's time that we have a Chaplain that wasn't a Catholic'".

Conroy's resignation sparked an uproar last week when it became known that he was asked to quit. "I intend to sit down with Father Conroy early next week so that we can move forward for the good of the whole House", Ryan said.

The Jesuit priest said that he had never been disciplined, and had received zero complaints about his ministry during his almost seven years as House chaplain, but felt as though he was being forced into resigning by Ryan.

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"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, as you requested", Conroy added.

Conroy also wrote that Ryan aide Burks mentioned a November prayer regarding the GOP tax bill that upset many Republicans. "May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all", Conroy said. The story that eventually rose to the top of the gossip mill was this: past year, as Ryan and his fellow Republicans were attempting to hammer out the details of their prized tax bill, Conroy gave a blessing that included the line: "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", a message that prompted Ryan to tell Conroy, the next time the two crossed paths, "Padre, you just got to stay out of politics".

Conroy writes that he initially felt that he had "little choice" but to resign, but he now says that he would like to return to work unless fired "for cause".

The House Chaplain said Thursday he won't resign after all, amid controversy over House Speaker Paul Ryan's decision to push him out.

"To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves", he said. The chaplain, who had meant to resign May 24, believes there was no just cause for him to be ousted from the position. "If you are a chaplain of Congress, you are going to pray about what Congress is doing". And it represented an escalation in a fight that Ryan's office had probably hoped would peter out.

Conroy wrote that the reasons given by Burks included an interview with National Journal, as well as a possible question of whether the House chaplain should be a Catholic priest.

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