House chaplain delivers 1st prayer since rescinding resignation

Rev. Patrick Conroy delivered his first prayer Monday to open the House of Representatives since rescinding his resignation as House chaplain last week following outrage over House Speaker Paul Ryan’s attempt to oust him from the role.

“We give you thanks, O God, for giving us another day. As the Members return to Washington, may they be empowered and encouraged by their constituents to be their best selves in serving in the people’s House,” Conroy said in his delivery. “May the disagreements... give way to good faith efforts to find solutions to the issues facing our nation in a manner consistent with the great traditions of our republican form of government. May that is done in the people’s House this day be for your greater honor and glory.”

Conroy on Thursday wrote in a two-page letter to Ryan, the retiring Wisconsin Republican, that he has never “heard a complaint about my ministry” as House chaplain and was rescinding his resignation.

Conroy said top Ryan aide Jonathan Burks told him the speaker wanted his resignation, and cited a prayer last year that was potentially critical of the GOP tax bill that upset many Republicans.

Conroy prayed for lawmakers to make sure that “there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

Burks, in a statement released by Ryan’s office, said: “I strongly disagree with Father Conroy’s recollection of our conversation.”

In response to the letter, Ryan announced that Conroy would keep his job, after all.

“I have accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as Chaplain of the House,” Ryan said. “My original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution. To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves.”

Ryan added that he planned to sit down with Conroy “so that we can move forward for the good of the whole House.”

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.

“He had a number of complaints that the chaplain was not meeting the pastoral needs of the members in general,” said Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo.

Democrats had expressed outrage over Ryan’s decision to push Conroy out of the job.

“I have expressed my forceful disagreement with this decision to the speaker,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement on Friday. “It is truly sad that he made this decision, and it is especially bewildering that he did so only a matter of months before the end of his term.”

Conroy’s firing would have been the first forced ouster in the history of the House.

Conroy has served as the chamber’s chaplain since 2011.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.