Democrats are expressing outrage over House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to oust the Rev. Patrick Conroy as the chaplain of the House of Representatives.
“I have expressed my forceful disagreement with this decision to the speaker,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi 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.”
Ryan has told fellow Republicans that he fired the House chaplain, a Roman Catholic priest from the Jesuit order, after complaints from members that he wasn't doing a very good job -- not because of pressure over Conroy's political leanings.
"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.
Ryan's office won't say why Conroy was asked to resign -- the first forced ouster in the history of the House.
Conroy has served as the chamber's chaplain since 2011 but offered his resignation last week at Ryan's urging. He will leave his House service next month.
Democrats are pushing back against the argument there were complaints.
“During Father Conroy’s entire service, I’ve never received a complaint from our Members about him pastoring to the needs of the House,” Pelosi said.
Democrats -- and Conroy himself -- have cited a prayer he offered last fall that called for fairness as the House debated tax cuts as a reason for GOP discontent with his performance.
Last November, 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."
Conroy told The New York Times that shortly afterward, Ryan warned him to "stay out of politics."
Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., has been tasked by Ryan with helping to find Conroy's replacement. He said he hopes to find "someone who has the instincts to go and minister to those that are hurting as opposed to someone always waiting (for someone) to come to them."
Democrats on Friday sought to create a special committee to investigate "the motivations and actions" behind Ryan's decision to fire Conroy, but the move was killed by a party-line vote.
Conroy's resignation letter said he was offering to step down at Ryan's request, calling his seven years of House service "one of the great privileges of my life."
The chaplain is responsible for opening the House each day with a prayer and offering counseling to lawmakers and aides on the House side of the Capitol.
Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.