Speaker Paul Ryan Accepts House Chaplain’s Letter Rescinding His Resignation

Ryan said he and Jesuit Father Patrick Conroy will meet next week to discuss moving forward ‘for the good of the whole House.’

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (l) and Jesuit Father Patrick Conroy, chaplain for the House.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (l) and Jesuit Father Patrick Conroy, chaplain for the House. (photo: Public domain)

WASHINGTON — Jesuit Father Patrick Conroy rescinded his resignation as chaplain of the House of Representatives, and informed Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that he intends on staying in his role through his term.

In a letter sent to Ryan May 3, Conroy, who had resigned two weeks earlier, said that if the speaker still wished for him to leave his role, he would have to fire him. The priest said that he would not be submitting another letter of resignation.

In a statement released later that day, Ryan said that he accepts Father Conroy’s letter and has “decided that he will remain in his position as chaplain of the House.”

“My original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution,” Ryan said. “To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves. It is my job as speaker to do what is best for this body, and I know that this body is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important post.”

Ryan said he plans to meet with Father Conroy, who has served as House chaplain in his capacity since May 2011, next week to discuss moving forward “for the good of the whole House.”

Father Conroy had tendered his resignation as House chaplain April 15. In his letter Thursday, he said that Ryan’s Chief of Staff Jonathan Burks had told him that the Speaker was asking him to resign. He said that Burks told him, “maybe it’s time we had a chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic,” and commented on his prayer in November that was perceived as critical of the Republicans’ tax bill.

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

“At that point, I thought I had little choice but to resign, as my assumption was that you had the absolute prerogative and authority to end my term as House chaplain,” Father Conroy wrote.

However, Father Conroy wrote that he changed his mind about his resignation after Ryan began speaking to the media. Ryan said last week that some House members had concerns about Father Conroy, and that he was not able to adequately tend to the spiritual needs of some congressmen.

Father Conroy disputed this allegation, and said that he would have made an effort to adjust his ministry in order to better serve the House.

“In fact, no such criticism has ever been leveled against me during my tenure as House chaplain. At the very least, if it were, I could have attempted to correct such ‘faults,” he said. “In retracting my resignation I wish to do just that.”

Father Conroy then insisted that not only would he not be resigning, but also that if Ryan in fact wanted him removed from his position, he would have to terminate him. Otherwise, he will remain as House chaplain throughout the remainder of his two-year term, which is up in 2019.

“Therefore, I wish to serve the remainder of my term as House chaplain, unless terminated ‘for cause.’”

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Mississippi River are seen from East St. Louis, Illinois, on June 27. Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision on June 24, abortion is now banned in Missouri. The nearest clinics to St. Louis are across the river in Illinois, including a Planned Parenthood in Fairview Heights that was opened in 2019 in anticipation of the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Welcome to Post-Roe America

Every year on the anniversary of Dobbs, Catholics will be able to deepen their understanding of God’s role in the conception of every child, his care for the child’s growth, his knowing each by name, and the future for which he has given each child life.