Saturday, April 28, 2018

“Padre, you just got to stay out of politics,” he recalled the speaker saying.

As I'm sure you all know, Paul Ryan fired the House's chaplain - a Roman Catholic priest, Father Conroy.

The title quote and quotes below come from a New York Times article that points to the prayer that is said to have caused Ryan's remark (in this post's title.)  Apparently he was miffed by this comment about the Republican tax plan that Ryan helped pushed through:
 “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.”
This focuses on a key difference between the Catholic interpretations of the bible and many Protestant interpretations which talk about work as being a divine calling and the importance of self reliance.

But as I read the quote, I couldn't help but think about what Ryan probably really meant by the word 'politics.'  I think he meant don't take positions that challenge my positions.  Surely, if the Father had spoken about saving fetuses from abortion (as political a topic as you could want, and one consistent with the Catholic church's beliefs) Ryan wouldn't have been upset at all.

 Merriam Webster's online dictionary's first definition of political is:
"of or relating to government, a government, or the conduct of government" 
How could a Congressional chaplain say anything of relevance that would not be political?  Even if the chaplain's job is purely ceremonial, there's no way a chaplain can say anything without it being interpreted as political by someone.

The article goes on to discuss simmering tension between Catholics and Evangelical Christians in the House.
"The controversy was heightened when Representative Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina and a Baptist minister, said Thursday in an interview with The Hill newspaper that he hoped the next chaplain of the House might come from a nondenominational church tradition who could relate to members with wives and children.
Catholic Democrats quickly called his remarks anti-Catholic, as Catholic priests are celibate . . ."
The Times article also offers another explanation for the firing - that the Chaplain wasn't carrying out his pastoral duties satisfactorily.  It also suggests this was one more Republican 'unforced error' that would help Democrats in the November election.  I don't know about that.  There are so many things that will influence whether and how voters vote.  Add this to the list.


  1. Since the guy was obviously offering up prayers in front of congress, it appears that he was doing at least part of his job. Personally, if I was religious, and of a certain religious sect that was different from the one that my official congressional chaplain was, I'd find a local preacher of my "own type" to get counseling from. I mean, that's probably what the Muslim and Jewish congress people do. I think that it's pretty obvious that Ryan simply doesn't want a Jesuit around offering even mild criticism to the Republican plan to make the poor in this country even more miserable and downtrodden than they already are. Those pesky Jesuits have a habit of reminding people that Christians are supposed to be aspiring to be Christ-like, which does not fit in with the Paul Ryan crowd's version of being a good Catholic.

    1. Thanks, Anon. I also forgot to add on that perhaps we should be questioning the whole point of having a chaplain in Congress. And your point - that members of Congress can seek counsel from clergy from their own preferred religion, adds support to that idea. Maybe there should, instead, be a Congressional psychiatrist or ten.


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