The forced resignation of Patrick Conroy, the House chaplain, has caused convulsions on Capitol Hill. Conroy is a Jesuit priest and has been the spiritual leader of the House since 2011. The event laid bare the deep religious fissures among Congress members.

Democrats, irrespective of their religion, have accused Speaker Paul Ryan of pushing politics into this ordinarily general nonpolitical role. Ryan is an elected Republican from Wisconsin. Both Republican and Democrat Catholics have condemned this move. Ryan is believed to be the principal instigator behind this action.

The unstable political environment was made more volatile by off the cuff remarks by Representative Mark Walker, an elected Republican from North Carolina. He made a few comments to the media where he put forward the opinion that the person who will occupy the chaplain post should preferably be a family man with adult children. This would make the chaplain be more relatable. The person can also give better counsel to lawmakers who are married and have kids.

A few Republicans and some Democratic lawmakers thought the comments to be extremely anti-Catholic as almost every Catholic priest takes celibacy vows. Representative Pete King, a Republican from New York, particularly criticized Walker during a private GOP conference. Walker apologized both in the meeting and later in public with reporters. He clarified that he meant the recommended person must have experience of working with families. King has accepted Walker's explanation, but not all Congress members accepted this excuse.

Republican Emanuel Cleaver, an elected Democrat from Montana, sharply criticized Walker's remarks. He termed them bigotry. He pointed out when someone specifies a person with a family; then the speaker is clearly anti-Catholic. Ryan, in some private conversations with Republican lawmakers, said many GOP members felt Conroy had neglected “pastoral needs.”

When it comes to Conroy, he was in the dark as to why the speaker sacked him from the post. Cleaver warned that it would be impossible to pick Conroy's substitute without first knowing why Conroy was sacked to begin with. Multiple Democrats claim Speaker Ryan has no authority to eject Conroy from his position.

Speculation on Twitter says Conroy may have been dismissed over his views on a tax bill.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter