It appeared the Evangelists struck again as they consolidate their power in Congress. This time it was a somewhat petty maneuver but one has to admit that with their gaining the ascendancy in the United States they are entitled to the spoils that go along with gaining significant control of Congress and the White House.
It had been years that they were subject to the humiliation of the prayer that was offered at the beginning of each day. It was not being offered by one of their own but by one of a suspect faith. Father Patrick Conroy a Jesuit of the Catholic religion was the chaplain of the House of Representative. He had been chaplain since 2011 when he was appointed by John Boehner (a Catholic) along with the concurrence of Nancy Pelosi (a Catholic). His predecessor appointed in 2000 was Father Daniel Coughlin. That had the Catholics in charge of offering the opening prayer for 18 straight years.
When Father Coughlin was appointed it was after a slight controversy. A search committee had been formed to nominate the next chaplain. They took a secret ballot after conducting interviews and voted for a Catholic priest. The Speaker, the estimable pervert Dennis Hastert, ignored the committee and picked a Presbyterian minister. Complaints alleging anti-Catholic bias resulted in the minister withdrawing and Coughlin (a different priest than the one who received the votes) being appointed.
It was hard to believe there was an anti-Catholic bias. There had been 58 House chaplains before Coughlin, None were Catholic. None were other than Protestant. None were women.
Father Conroy was in the middle of his term when he was approached on Friday the 13th of April by the someone from the office of Speaker Paul Ryan (a Catholic). Conroy was told that “maybe it was time that we had a chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic” and he was asked to resign. He would have been the first chaplain ever prevented from completing his term in office.
Conroy resigned and then unresigned. In his unresigning letter he wrote:
“you publicly indicated that my “pastoral services” to some members were lacking and that I did not offer adequate “spiritual counseling” to others. . . . no such criticism has ever been leveled against me during my tenure as House Chaplain . . . .”
There were two indications that the real reason for the change was the grumblings of the Evangelists that a Catholic held the position. First, after a meeting with Ryan Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., said Ryan told members “that there were concerns expressed to him, the speaker, from a large number of members that their pastoral needs were not being met by Father Conroy;” the other was the search committee for a new chaplain set up by Ryan consisted of three Republican Baptists and one Methodist. One of the Republicans leading the committee, Mark Walker of North Carolina, said he wants the next chaplain to have a family which rules out any Catholic priest. One member labeled Walker’s statement as “anti-Catholic on its face.”
Ryan facing a lot of heat from the members of Congress backed off. He said he would let Conroy serve out the rest of his term which is over when this Congress ends this year. One can expect that it will be his last no matter who controls the House in the next session.
The Big Question is why did Ryan do what he did at this time. He did not do it in a vacuum nor was it for some speech Conroy made last year. Why was he pushed out so suddenly? I have to believe the jettisoning of a Catholic priest and the bringing on of an Evangelical pastor was being done for purely political reasons. It was in part a way to sate the anti-Catholic Evangelical dismay of having a priest in that position. The Evangelical candidates for election to the House this year could take credit for the expulsion of the papist and placing one of their own in his position – making America great again.
Nothing else seems to fit. It was clearly using religious bigotry to get votes. What’s surprising is Catholic Ryan was so willing to go along with it.