Ryan says House chaplain will stay in job

Rev. Patrick Conroy chaplain of the House of Representatives in

"Speaker Ryan's decision to accept Father Conroy's decision to rescind his resignation and finish his term is welcome news", Pelosi said in a statement on Thursday.

Ryan, who is Catholic, released a statement in response in which he said he accepted Conroy's letter and "decided that he will remain in his position". He said, "My original decision was made in what I believe to be the best interest of the institution".

The Speaker has said concerns about Conroy's "pastoral services" were behind his decision.

Ryan has told fellow Republicans that he wanted to oust the House chaplain, a Roman Catholic priest from the Jesuit order, after complaints from members that he wasn't doing a very good job.

In a letter sent to Ryan on May 3, Conroy said that if the speaker still wished for him to leave his role, he would have to fire him.

A separate GOP member who attended the meeting said Ryan "didn't say this as bluntly but the reason for the change is that many of us like Father Conroy but we feel like he didn't do anything". Within hours Ryan had backed down, ending the possibility of what the speaker feared would be a "protracted fight" over what is supposed to be a unifying and spiritual position in the partisan chamber. Conroy insisted that the prayer didn't "sound political to him" and added: "If you are hospital chaplain, you are going to pray about health".

The floor vote was defeated, but the dissent continued and Fr Conroy took further "advice" on the resignation he had submitted.

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The retraction (and acceptance) of Conroy's forced resignation ends an embarrassing multi-week saga that has served as a fresh reminder of Paul Ryan's ineptitude. Conroy was elected to his position in May 2011 after his predecessor the Rev Daniel Coughlin retired.

"In retracting my resignation, I wish to do just that", he wrote. The letter was first reported by The Washington Post.

'I inquired as to whether or not it was "for cause", and Mr Burks mentioned dismissively something like "maybe it's time that we had a Chaplain that wasn't Catholic,"' Conroy wrote.

Ryan denied the idea that his dismissal of Conroy was due to politics after Conroy asked lawmakers to be "mindful" of economic disparities on November 6 amid House Republicans' sweeping tax reform efforts. He said Ryan dispatched his chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, to inform him of the firing.

But Connolly, a Catholic, said he shared the priest's suspicion, which was reinforced when Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, suggested the next chaplain should have a wife and a family. His was responsible for opening each day's proceedings with a prayer, as well as providing pastoral counseling to lawmakers and their staff.

Some 150 lawmakers, including Democrats and Republican, had written Ryan demanding an explanation for the ouster, with some warning that the decision reflected poorly on the House of Representatives.

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