One of the chief clowns in the circus that was once the federal government of the United States took it upon himself to fire the House chaplain, Reverend Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest. Speaker of the House, soon to be just a plain-ol’-Joe like the rest of us, decided that the priest praying for the poor, for peace, and for equality was a firing offense. Hmmmm … think about that one for a minute, folks!
Ryan has warned Conroy before about praying for the things that seem to have dropped off the agenda of the government, such as compassion, but the prayer that broke the camel’s back came last Friday when Conroy prayed “for all people who have special needs” and “those who are sick” and for those “who serve in this House to be their best selves.”
Now, folks … you all know by now that I am not religious. However, I cannot find a darn thing in the Padre’s prayer with which to take umbrage. Not. One. Thing. Conroy’s firing may well be the clue to exactly what our government, such as it is, has become. It has become a group of self-serving men and women who feel threatened when they are reminded of the majority of this nation whom they have harmed in one way or another. They are offended by those who would have the gall to remind them that there are people in this nation who are suffering from such things as illness, starvation and homelessness.
Ryan’s statement of the priest’s termination came on April 16th, but was phrased in such a way that nobody realized what happened, for Ryan merely said that Conroy would be ‘stepping down’:
“As chaplain, Father Conroy has been a great source of strength and support to our community. He is deeply admired by members and staff. Father Conroy’s ministry here has made a difference, and we are all very grateful to him.”
Sounds fairly innocuous, eh? Until this week when Conroy’s letter of resignation was made public. The first line says it all:
“As you have requested, [emphasis added] I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th chaplain of the United States House of Representatives.”
Conroy later said in an interview that his resignation was requested on behalf of Ryan by Ryan’s chief of staff … he couldn’t even be bothered to do his own dirty work. Or … was he afraid to face Conroy, knowing there would be questions?
One prayer that earned Conroy a rebuke from Ryan last November, when the bill that would give huge tax cuts mainly to the wealthy was being debated on the floor, included:
“May all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”
And Ryan took umbrage. A few days after, a staffer from Ryan’s office came to Conroy and said that Ryan felt the prayer was too political and was upset. And then one day, as Conroy and Ryan passed in the halls of the Capitol, Ryan said, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”
I wonder if Ryan would have been happier if Father Conroy had prayed for the continued wealth of the members of Congress, or the good health of Donald Trump? Perhaps he should have prayed for the people of the United States to all develop amnesia and forget the abominations that have been thrust upon us since 20 January 2017.
In the grand scheme of today’s environment in Washington, the firing of the House chaplain is not the most important issue, not the biggest news of the day. But it speaks volumes and speaks them loudly, I believe. It sends the message, once again, that among republicans in the federal government, there is little if any concern for the people of this nation, and any who believe otherwise will not be tolerated in the ‘hallowed’ halls of our government. In truth, I no longer think of it as a government, but rather as either a circus or a train wreck, depending on the news of the day.
Some members of both parties are outraged and demanding more information regarding the priest’s firing. Representatives Walter Jones, a republican from North Carolina, and Gerald Connolly, a democrat from Virginia, are circulating a letter for their colleagues to sign, asking Mr. Ryan for more information. Jones said …
“I’m very upset. 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? The members of the House vote for the chaplain. This is not a one-man decision. The House should have the facts of whatever the problem is.”
On Friday, House democrats attempted to establish an investigative panel to look into Ryan’s decision to fire Conroy, but the House republicans, predictably, succeeded in shutting down the idea before it even sprouted wings. Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong issued a statement saying, “The speaker made the decision he believes to be in the best interest of the House, and he remains grateful for Father Conroy’s many years of service.” Yeah, sure he does. Ms. Strong must be practicing to get Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ job someday.
As one writer for The Washington Post puts it: “Only in this perverted time could a priest lose his job after committing the sin of crying out for justice for the poor.” I think that says it all.