Ryan accepts letter rescinding chaplain's resignation, allows him to remain on job

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The circumstances around Ryan's decision to oust Conroy have raised questions among members of Congress.

The chaplain of the House of Representatives, who was recently forced to resign by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, said Thursday that he is rescinding his decision - in effect forcing Mr. Ryan to try to fire him.

Hours after Conroy's letter became public, Ryan said he accepted Conroy's retraction and "decided that he will remain in his position as Chaplain of the House". Ryan said last week that some House members had concerns about Conroy, and that he was not able to adequately tend to the spiritual needs of some Congressmen.

Conroy served as House chaplain since Ryan's predecessor, Republican John Boehner, nominated him in 2011. 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 a Catholic".

Last week, Conroy stepped down after Ryan, a Catholic, allegedly told him he would be dismissed unless he left voluntarily.

Conroy spelled out in the most detail yet his April 13 confrontation with Burks that set the stage for his resignation days later.

"I do not wish to have my "resignation" be construed as a "constructive termination, '" Conroy wrote".

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Conroy said Burks also mentioned a prayer Conroy had delivered in November, as Republicans were preparing to vote on their tax cut bill, that urged lawmakers not to create "winners and losers" and keep in mind those who "continue to struggle". "To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves".

Conroy said he gave in to pressure from the speaker's staff when he agreed to resign in April, believing Ryan had the power to fire him.

"[A week after that prayer], a staffer [for Speaker Ryan] came down and said, 'We are upset with this prayer; you are getting too political, '" Conroy told the Times. He says that his desire is to continue to serve until the "end of his current two-year term, and beyond".

In the November 6 prayer, Conroy entreated that under the new legislation "there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans". "Therefore, I wish to serve the remainder of my term as House Chaplain, unless terminated 'for cause'". The chaplain, who had meant to resign May 24, believes there was no just cause for him to be ousted from the position. "If this is true about the prayer, and we have freedom of religion in America, how about freedom of religion on the floor of the House?"

Conroy told The New York Times last week that shortly afterward Ryan warned Conroy to "stay out of politics".

Conroy, a Jesuit priest, resigned April 15 after he spent almost seven years praying at the outset of House sessions. However, in a letter to Ryan dated May 3, Conroy retracted that resignation "upon advice of counsel".