Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Politics

House of Representatives

Chaplain Nomination on the Line as Pelosi Reviews Child Abuse Settlement

pelosi_nancy_041411.jpg

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill April 14. (AP)

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is taking a second look at the nomination of a Catholic priest to be House chaplain after expressing concern about the massive child abuse settlement recently struck by the Jesuit group he works for. 

Pelosi and House Speaker John Boehner jointly announced the nomination of Rev. Patrick Conroy last week, both endorsing him to succeed Daniel Coughlin, who retired last month. But Pelosi apparently was not told about the $166 million settlement reached in March between Conroy's Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus and hundreds of sexual abuse victims. 

Roll Call first reported that Pelosi had not been told about the settlement. Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill told Fox News on Wednesday that Boehner has since provided her office with "additional, new information," which her office will review. 

"We are most sympathetic to the concerns of the families and take their views very seriously," Hammill said. "As with the information (Boehner) provided earlier along with his recommendation, we will now review these new materials." 

It's not clear whether the nomination, which was expected to be brought to the floor later in the month, is in jeopardy. Boehner's office continued to stand by Conroy Wednesday and dismissed the criticism, considering the abuse settlement stemmed from complaints in the 1960s and 1970s mostly before Conroy became a Jesuit. 

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel noted that the settlement was "public knowledge," having been reported on in The New York Times and other publications. 

"This is guilt-by-association, and it's disgraceful. The settlement has nothing to do with Fr. Conroy," Steel told Fox News. "Both Speaker Boehner and Democratic Leader Pelosi reviewed Fr. Conroy's background before the speaker selected him. The speaker is confident he will be a great chaplain for the House of Representatives." 

The settlement struck in March was the largest in history from a Catholic religious order. The Oregon province covers several northwestern states, and the sexual abuse claims came largely from Native American communities. According to the Times report in March, many victims were students at a school run by the Jesuits in Washington state. 

Roll Call reported Wednesday that while Conroy was never accused of abusing children or covering it up, some -- including a victim and former priest -- questioned the decision to nominate him to the prestigious position in the House considering the organization he represents. 

However, Conroy didn't become a Jesuit until 1973 and didn't become an ordained Catholic priest until 1983, long after most the abuse was alleged to have happened. He went on to serve as a chaplain at Georgetown University before moving on to teach theology at a high school in Portland, Ore. 

Before being nominated for House chaplain, Conroy was vetted by the Capitol Police, House counsel, and office of the House chief administrative officer. The process included a criminal background check, a search of court records, a credit check and an IRS background check. 

According to Boehner's office, the settlement issue never came up. Boehner's office also said Pelosi's aides were aware of a separate incident in 1986 when Conroy reported an allegation of abuse to his superiors. 

In a written statement last week, Pelosi said Capitol Hill would be "blessed" to have Conroy in the position of chaplain. 

"His experience working with young people, tending to the spiritual needs of a variety of communities, and serving for 38 years as a thoughtful and committed Jesuit priest will serve him well in this new role," she said. 

Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.