Monday, April 30, 2018

The (Lame-Duck) Speaker vs. the (Fired) House Chaplain

“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.” That prayer, offered by the Jesuit Chaplain of the House of Representatives, Father Patrick J. Conroy, earlier this year, may (at least so it has been widely rumored) be what cost the Catholic House Chaplain his job. Apparently, praying for "benefits balanced and shared by all Americans" was just a prayer too far for the lame-duck House Speaker, an Ayn Rand fan since high school, who notoriously has focused on the opposite of guaranteeing that benefits be anything but "balanced and shared by all Americans."

The 60th Chaplain of the House of Representatives and only the second Catholic ever to serve as House Chaplain, Father Conroy was chosen by former Speaker Boehner and has been serving in that post since May 2011. He has now become the first chaplain in history ever to be fired from that office! One might have thought that the Lame-Duck Speaker would have enough other, more worldly matters to preoccupy him, but apparently not. 

As Spencer McBride wrote Saturday in The Washington Post “Every week in churches throughout the country, clergymen offer sermons and prayers that urge men and women to pay special attention to the needs of the poor and those whom society has marginalized. … Yet when the same, seemingly noncontroversial sentiment is uttered in a polarized chamber of Congress, sensitive political agendas will too often serve as the lens through which lawmakers view such remarks. At stake in the firing and replacing of Conroy as chaplain is the transformation of a congressional position designed to promote civil discourse into nothing more than another tool of partisanship.”

Obviously, for the Congressional Majority, echoing Jesus' priorities for the poor and marginalized may be quite controversial indeed!

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