Ryan, House chaplain meet to discuss 'how to improve the services'

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.) said Tuesday he’s spoken with Father Patrick Conroy about how to improve pastoral services for lawmakers after backtracking on his request for the House chaplain to resign following a furor over the dismissal.

“Father Pat and I had a good cup of coffee this morning. We talked about how to improve the services going forward,” Ryan said during a GOP leadership press conference. “I think ultimately we can make improvements.”

“We’re going to keep talking, and I feel good about where things are,” he added.

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Conroy fueled the uproar last week when he rescinded his earlier resignation letter, writing to Ryan that he’d never been “disciplined, nor reprimanded, nor have I ever heard a complaint about my ministry during my time as House chaplain.”

Conroy said in the letter that Ryan's chief of staff Jonathan Burks approached him last month requesting his resignation on behalf of Ryan, himself a Catholic. 

Conroy said Burks gave no specific cause, but suggested it was time for a non-Catholic to fill the chaplain post.

“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 Catholic,’ ” Conroy wrote.

Burks adamantly denies Conroy’s depiction of the discussion.

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

Ryan maintained his previous request for Conroy’s resignation was not politically motivated, but was because he felt lawmakers’ pastoral needs were not being met.

During a GOP conference meeting on Tuesday morning, Ryan continued to defend his initial decision to dismiss Conroy, telling lawmakers that he thought it was the correct decision.

But Ryan told members that he also felt like it was the right call to let Conroy return following all the “controversy” surrounding his ouster, said one GOP lawmaker.

Ryan did not want to "drag the institution through a heated review on this and wanted to work with Father Pat to improve services to members,” said another Republican member.

--Melanie Zanona and Scott Wong contributed to this report, which was updated at 10:51 a.m.