Catholic civil rights group calls for Ryan chief of staff to resign over alleged anti-Catholic remarks


A top Catholic civil rights group has called for Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) chief of staff to resign for allegedly making anti-Catholic remarks to the House chaplain when conveying Ryan’s request for his resignation.

“It’s time Ryan found himself a new chief of staff. Anti-Catholic bigotry cannot be tolerated anywhere, and certainly not in Washington,” Catholic League president Bill Donohue said in the statement Friday, as reported by CNN

Ryan’s office pushed back on accusations of anti-Catholic bias in the Speaker’s office.

“To suggest there is any anti-Catholic bias in the speaker’s office is not only wrong but absurd,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said Friday.

Others voiced support for the Speaker and his handling of the situation.

“Speaker Ryan is a straight shooter and is a devout Catholic who has always interacted respectfully with Catholics of different viewpoints. Claims to the contrary are downright ridiculous and basely political,” Maureen Malloy Ferguson, senior policy advisor for The Catholic Association, told The Hill.

Patrick Conroy resigned last week as House chaplain at the request of Ryan. Conroy claimed that, upon making the request, Ryan’s chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, told him that the House wanted a chaplain who wasn’t Catholic.

“On Friday, April 13, 2018, your Chief of Staff, Jonathon Burks, came to me and informed me that you were asking for my letter of resignation,” Conroy wrote Thursday in a letter to Ryan rescinding his resignation. “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.'”

Conroy added that Burks’s comment prompted him to think he had “little choice but to resign, as my assumption was that you had absolute prerogative and authority to end my term as House chaplain.”

Burks has denied the comment and said he remembers the conversation differently.

“I strongly disagree with Father Conroy’s recollection of our conversation,” he said Friday. “I am disappointed by the misunderstanding, but wish him the best as he continues to serve the House.”

Burks did not respond to CNN’s request for additional comment Friday.

Conroy was first elected to serve at the House chaplain in 2011. His sudden resignation late last month at Ryan’s request stunned lawmakers

On Thursday, Ryan backed down from his controversial decision to dismiss him and accepted Conroy’s request to rescind his resignation letter. He will be continue to serve the rest of his current two-year term.

Ryan — who is also Catholic — said he asked Conroy to step aside because other House members complained to him that their “pastoral needs” were not being met.

Updated: 3:54 p.m.

Tags Catholic League Catholicism House chaplain Pat Conroy Paul Ryan Paul Ryan

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