WASHINGTON, D.C., January 11, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — A Catholic priest who once earned the ire of former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will retain his post as chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives after members of Congress, with Democrats now holding a majority of seats, voted January 3 to keep Fr. Patrick J. Conroy SJ as chaplain for the next two years as the 116th session began.
According to House rules, the 68-year-old Conroy’s only specified duty is to “offer a prayer at the commencement of each day’s sitting of the House.” However, he is known to offer counsel to the House members, regardless of affiliation. His nondenominational prayer is broadcast live on HouseLive.gov and on C-Span, and is also kept on file by the Congressional Record. The prayer is incorporated in the official rules of the House to commence business.
In 2017, Conroy fell afoul of Republican leaders in Congress. On November 6 of that year, Conroy offered a prayer during the midst of efforts by erstwhile House Speaker Ryan, a fellow Catholic, to get the votes he needed to pass a Republican tax overhaul bill. Conroy prayed that day: “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.” Critics of the bill claimed that it would unduly affect the poor while enriching the wealthy.
In April 2018, Ryan asked for his resignation, which Conroy did with an effective date of May 24. However, after a firestorm of indignation on the part of Democrats, Conroy rescinded his resignation and announced he intended to remain. Speaker Ryan accepted the withdrawal of the resignation and reinstated Conroy as House Chaplain on May 3, 2018.
In an undated YouTube video interview that appeared in 2015, Conroy declared that Catholic doctrine regarding homosexuality is a “dead end.” Suggesting that Catholic teaching is antiquated, he said, “Now, we have theology on all this stuff and the answer is ‘gays can never engage in this and can never be married.’” He said, “But that’s a theology that goes back centuries before there was any understanding of human psychology, human individuality, human sexuality and all those kinds of understandings of the human psychosis, and the human person that weren’t as complete prior to these kinds of advances in understanding.”
Conroy went on to say, “Human beings procreate male-female, but human sexuality isn’t just about that. It’s about so much more … which is self-evident.”
Father James Martin, a fellow Jesuit and LGBT advocate, sprang to Conroy’s defense as liberal Democrats denounced Speaker Ryan’s call for the chaplain’s resignation. In a May 2018 tweet, Martin wrote that Conroy's firing was “unjust.” Martin wrote “advocating for the poor and marginalized is what every priest, every minister, in fact every Christian, is called to do. If you have problem with that, you have a problem with Jesus.” In response, Bishop Rick Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee, tweeted: “Father Martin has his opinion of the hiring or firing of an individual. His opinion is just that, an opinion! Opinion isn’t fact even from a guy who just writes books.”
Father Martin has his opinion of the hiring or firing of an individual. He opinion is just that, an opinion! Opinion isn’t fact even from a guy who just writes books. https://t.co/wLsz0wu6xw
— Bishop Rick Stika (@BishopStika) May 3, 2018
The House Chaplain’s budget was approximately $436,886 in 2016, according to an article at Patheos. Salaries for the chaplain and two assistants top $345,000 per year, according to InsideGov. The House Chaplain earns a salary at Level IV of the Executive Schedule for federal employees. Other federal employees at that level include the general counsels of the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force; the chief financial officers of NASA and the EPA; and the Army’s Director of Civil Defense.