After Controversial Removal, Ryan Reinstates House Chaplain

After hastily removing the House Chaplain under unclear circumstances, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has reversed himself.

After a week or so of controversy over his removal, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has agreed to reinstate House Chaplain Fr. Pat Conroy after apparently forcing him out last month under circumstances that remain unclear to just about everyone:

WASHINGTON — Speaker Paul D. Ryan reinstated the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy as the chaplain of the House of Representatives on Thursday, after the chaplain sent him a letter rescinding his forced resignation and daring the speaker to fire him.

“I have accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as chaplain of the House,” Mr. Ryan said in a statement. He added, “It is my job as speaker to do what is best for this body, and I know that this body is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important post.”

Father Conroy, a Catholic priest who has been the chaplain since 2011, intimated in a letter to Mr. Ryan on Thursday that the speaker did not have the authority to fire him, noting that the chaplain, who is selected by the speaker, is elected by the members of the House. He suggested his Catholic faith had contributed to his dismissal.

And in an interview, Father Conroy said he had hired a lawyer to press his case. “This is so contentious, and I think it is so historic,” Father Conroy said, adding, “It’s not over.”

After Mr. Ryan reversed course, the chaplain accepted some responsibility in the debacle.

“We both acknowledged that we need to talk about how I can improve my performance so the chaplaincy operates for as many members as possible,” he said. “I don’t know any pastor or any chaplain anywhere that doesn’t have some detractors. That is the human condition. My problem is I was never told that that was the case.”

Father Conroy said he and Mr. Ryan will sit down together on Tuesday when the House is back in session.

At least one Catholic Republican welcomed the news.

“This should never have happened. He’s a good man, he’s a good chaplain and if they want to make a change, this is not the way to do it,” said a surprised Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, who had been critical of the speaker’s decision. “He deserved better and now he’s gotten better.”

Mr. King said that he understood why the chaplain complained: “It’s a cloud over the Jesuit order, it’s a cloud over him if he goes out with this.”

If Mr. Ryan hoped the matter of Father Conroy’s firing would fade over the current spring recess, the speaker was delivered an unexpected slap and caved quickly. The dismissal last month of the chaplain had raised concerns with some Catholic Republican House members, and handed Democrats a political gift. But the issue quieted after Congress left Washington last week.

Father Conroy’s letter was certain to stoke the anger.

“I have never been disciplined, nor reprimanded, nor have I ever heard a complaint about my ministry during my time as House Chaplain,” Father Conroy wrote.

Complaining that Mr. Ryan never spoke to him in person, he also raised his Catholicism. When Mr. Ryan’s chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, informed him that the speaker was asking for his letter of resignation, Father Conroy wrote, “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.”

Mr. Burks later said he strongly disagreed with Father Conroy’s recollection, adding that he was “disappointed by the misunderstanding.”

Mr. Ryan, who is also Roman Catholic, responded quickly.

“My original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution,” he said. “To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves.”

But he did not want the fight that the chaplain was demanding.

And politics were sure to follow.

“From the first day he entered the chamber, Father Conroy has done a superb job tending to his flock with wisdom and kindness,” said Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, in a quickly released statement after the chaplain’s letter came to light. “The feeble excuses offered by Speaker Ryan are merely a pretext to cover for the whims of extremists in his caucus. Father Conroy is standing tall, and I stand with him.”

As the article goes on to note, the circumstances surrounding Conroy’s “dismissal” were never clear to begin with:

Mr. Ryan moved quietly in April to remove the chaplain, who submitted his resignation when he was asked to and said his last day would be May 24. The abrupt dismissal caused an immediate uproar in the House, as Catholic lawmakers of both parties demanded an explanation from Mr. Ryan. In a closed-door meeting with Republicans, the speaker said he had received complaints about Father Conroy’s pastoral care, according to several lawmakers who attended.

But in an interview with The New York Times, Father Conroy said he thought that a prayer he delivered in November when Congress was debating a tax overhaul may have been a factor in the speaker’s decision. In his letter to Mr. Ryan, the chaplain said that Mr. Burks, the speaker’s chief of staff, had also mentioned the prayer, as well as an interview Father Conroy had given to The National Journal.

In the prayer, the chaplain urged lawmakers to “guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.” Shortly after, he said in the interview with The Times, he was admonished by Mr. Ryan, who views the tax overhaul as his signature achievement.

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

After his reinstatement, the chaplain chuckled over the controversy: “The upside of the whole story is people are actually reading my prayers.”

But the dismissal itself hints at politics. Father Conroy is a Jesuit, an order of priests viewed by some as more liberal. The hubbub around Father Conroy is all the more contentious in Catholic circles because Mr. Ryan is a Catholic conservative.

Mr. Ryan’s move also exposed long-simmering tensions between Catholics and evangelicals in the House. After Father Conroy was forced out, Representative Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina and a Southern Baptist minister, suggested that the next chaplain should be a family man — a remark that caused upset among Catholics because it implied that Catholic priests, who take a vow of celibacy, would not be eligible.

As noted above, there was at least some speculation that Conroy’s dismissal was rooted in the prayer that he read at the opening of a House session in November that appeared to make reference to the tax reform bill that the House of Representatives was debating at the time. However, other explanations or theories for Controy’s forced retirement quickly began to spring up, especially since neither Ryan nor any of his staff members offered any explanation for the apparent effort to push Conroy aside. Another theory that was put forward was that some Republicans were bothered by the fact that, at the request of a Democratic Congressman from North Carolina, Conroy had invited a Muslim Imam affiliated with Duke University to deliver the opening prayer for the House back in October of last year. Finally, as noted, it has been suggested that Ryan’s decision to force Conroy out came in the wake of complaints by fellow Republicans, most of whom are not Catholic, that the House Chaplin was Catholic to begin with. In that regard, it’s worth noting that Ryan is, of course, Catholic himself and the idea that he’d bow to pressure from Evangelicals who objected to a Catholic, and more specifically a Jesuit, Chaplain was in charge of the “pastoral care” of the House of Representatives. Whatever the reason, though, the fact that Ryan has backed down is a strong indication that he was getting significant negative blowback from other members of the Republican Caucus over Controy’s dismissal.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Religion, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. gVOR08 says:

    Ryan is, of course, Catholic himself

    I’ve mentioned before that I have a pet peeve – that no one should state something as a fact just because a politician said it was. Ryan says he’s a practicing Catholic. It is widely reported that he is an Ayn Rand Objectivist. Those claims cannot both be true. He picked a fight with a Jesuit, he can’t understand much about Catholicism.

  2. @gVOR08:

    There’s precisely zero evidence that Ryan is an “Ayn Rand Objectivist” and plenty of evidence that he considers himself a devout Catholic, not the least of them being his own public statements about his faith. The fact that he read Atlas Shrugged 20 years ago proves nothing, and people on the left really need to drop this idiotic canard already.

  3. Monala says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Not just 20 years ago. His love for Ayn Rand is an ongoing part of his life, something he has talked about on multiple occasions:

  4. KM says:


    he considers himself a devout Catholic

    And therein lies the rub. Is one a member of a faith simply because they say so or because they actually fit what the faith teaches? It’s “deeply held beliefs” vs demonstrable evidence. Frankly, a lot of this religious freedom nonsense is based solely on the notion that you can’t see into someone’s heart and therefore you can’t tell if they’re lying so they deserve the benefit of the doubt. Sadly for Ryan, Christianity includes a handy little notion from Christ Himself: “by their fruits ye shall know them” Ryan is trying to gather figs from thistles and it shows.

    This whole kerfuffle started because the Catholic priest in question subtly chastised them. Catholics and Jesuits in particular are big into social justice and inequalities and a truly devout Catholic would have grown up hearing about it and internalized it to some degree. What was Ryan’s response? Why, get rid of the troublesome priest who dared to remind the “devout” Catholic he wasn’t acting so devout and was in fact, in error according to his faith. Now, where have I heard something like that before??

    I don’t take the words of a self-pressed “devout” man who acts consistently in a 180 manner from what his faith dictates. Whether he’s true or not is between him and his Maker but I think I’ll follow Christ’s command and judge this jerk by the rotten fruit smell he reeks of.

  5. Daryl’s other brother Darryl says:

    Given Ryan’s view of economics, the social safety net, and his “idea” of helping the poor…I’d say he’s more Ayn Rand cultist than Christian.

    I was disgusted that he fired someone because they disagreed with his tax policy…which today’s job numbers show is a failed policy.
    Now I’m amused that he has once again shown himself to be an invertebrate.

  6. teve tory says:

    fact 1:

    “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it.”

    -Paul Ryan

    fact 2: His single-minded goal in congress was cutting taxes on the rich and programs for the poor.

    Conclusion: Talks Catholic, Walks Rand.

    BTW, if anyone you know read Atlas Shrugged and didn’t immediately throw it in a dumpster, show them Adam Lee’s 150-post blog on how, page-by-page, the book is incoherent garbage, and rand’s philosophy doesn’t even work when she can control everything in it.

  7. @KM:

    He goes to church every Sunday, his kids go to Catholic school, he’s talked about his faith far more than he’s ever talked about Ayn Rand.

    This Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand canard that the left keeps pushing is as dumb as the people who keep attacking Elizabeth Warren over her ancestry or calling Hillary Clinton a socialist.

    And don’t even get me started about how little they understand what Rand actually wrote. And I say that as someone who has been critical of her in the past.

  8. KM says:

    Forgot to add something. The whole “don’t work, don’t eat because the Bible had a quote somewhere” and “the poor are poor because they are lazy and immoral” isn’t a Catholic thing but more an Evangelical one. Catholics highly value the Sermon on the Mount and “feed the hungry” overrides “by the sweat of your brow” by a country mile. Many of Ryan’s public political positions are in direct conflict with his supposed devout nature and he chooses to doggly spout them off any chance he gets. Ann Rand resonated with him in a way Catholicism explicitly rejects. Pope Francis explicitly denounced the logic and underpinnings of Objectivism as antithesis to the Christian heart.

    Again, his personal beliefs are his own but just because he appropriates the label “Catholic” doesn’t make him one, let alone a devout one. Maybe he’s a Poinsettia-n-Lily or a cafeteria Catholic, possibly a cultural one. More likely he’s pulling one over on his voters though.

  9. MarkedMan says:

    @Monala: Just to avoid the click through:

    3. Listed Rand’s magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, as one of the three books he most frequently rereads.

    4. Told The Weekly Standard, “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it.”

    5. Repeatedly divided American society into “makers” and “takers.”

    6. Declared that Rand’s thinking is “sorely needed right now” because we are “living in an Ayn Rand novel” and that “Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism, and this, to me, is what is [sic] matters most.”

    7. Appeared at a gathering of Rand devotees and declared Rand’s philosophy was “the reason I got involved in public service,” that he makes it “required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff,” and that her philosophy continues to inspire “almost every fight we are involved in here, on Capitol Hill.”

    Now it is true that when he was on the presidential ticket, he stopped forcing interns to read “Atlas Shrugged”. But all his political efforts to date boil down to one continued push towards Ayn Rand’s bully-adolescent fantasy theories of human nature.

    Now, it could be argued that “Atlas Shrugged” and the rest of Rand’s works are on par with “The Celestine Prophecy” and similar tomes that “prove” their philosophy by positing fictional worlds so devoid of human understanding as to render themselves cartoonish works of naivety. But that’s not fair to “The Celestine Prophecy”. That work is drivel about how if we all love each other the world will be perfect. Ayn Rand’s pap is little more than contemptuous diatribes against inferiors who deserve to be preyed upon by their superiors. It is what billionaire hobbyists like the Koch brothers jerk off to while paying so call conservatives to pimp themselves out in think tanks in order to tear down everything that is decent about the United States.

    Or thereabouts…

  10. Yea okay, you guys continue with the Ryan/Rand obsession. I’m not going to engage any further on it because it’s utterly pointless and not relevant to the post, which is about Fr. Conroy and the circumstances surrounding his resignation and return.

  11. Jen says:

    The whole “some members felt their spiritual needs were not being met” line and the one who suggested the next House Chaplin have a wife and kids led me to suspect some level anti-Catholic bias was at play. There’s a group of evangelical Christians who have a real problem with Catholics–I figured Ryan was somehow trying to appease those folks.

  12. KM says:


    He goes to church every Sunday, his kids go to Catholic school, he’s talked about his faith far more than he’s ever talked about Ayn Rand.

    And? Appearances are deceiving, thus the reason that quote made it into the Bible.

    Seriously, I fit those criteria and I’m considered lapsed. Just because one goes to a building every Sunday doesn’t make one faithful. How many times have I looked around pews to see people talking or on their phones or daydreaming away only to stand up by rote because we do this every damn Sunday? Just showing up doesn’t count. Sending your kids to Catholic school isn’t really a marker either. Jesuit-run institutional are phenomenal and frankly a great investment in your child’s future. We had individuals of all faiths in my school because their parents wanted them to have better lives and the kids yawned their way through religion class and the nun’s lectures.

    Ryan has all the physical trappings of a Catholic yet he doesn’t live his faith. His butt’s in the pew but his heart is elsewhere, his mouth uses the shibboleths while twisting dogma to suit his purposes. There’s a reason why the clergy of his own faith are pointing out what he’s doing – it’s simply incompatible with who he professes he is.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    I’m sorry, but I don’t think the nature of Paul’s beliefs can be considered irrelevant to the question of why he fired – without cause or explanation – a Roman Catholic priest. As mentioned above, by their fruits, not by the bullsht they talk when they need votes. Rand is a Randian. He walks, talks and acts like a Randian with a bit of RC thrown in for the suckers.

    He just fired a Roman Catholic priest, it is believed, because that priest mentioned the poor. A Catholic does not fire a priest for talking about the poor, an Ayn Rand fanatic does. By their fruits. . . Paul is a liar. He’s an utter fraud of a human being, weak, spineless, devoid of principles aside from ‘more for my rich patrons.’ He’s fake everything, including fake Catholic.

  14. KM says:

    Precisely. The chaplain has served without complaint for so long and suddenly it’s a problem just as Ryan’s walking out the door?

    The evangelical wing of Congress is trying to control everything. Literally everything they can get their claws into. If you need to speak with someone about your wife and kids, there’s a person for that: a marriage counselor. The chaplain’s job is to administer to matters of faith, not household troubles.

    Come to think of it, considering how many Congress critters get taken down due to affairs and the like, maybe we *should* have an official marriage counselor on staff for them to consult. Add in an official generalized therapist and we might have a plan!

  15. Monala says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug, you’re the one who said. “The fact that he read Atlas Shrugged 20 years ago proves nothing” – we’re pointing out that Ryan has promoted Rand and her beliefs on an ongoing basis much more recently, and regularly re-reads her works.

  16. teve tory says:

    @michael reynolds:

    He just fired a Roman Catholic priest, it is believed, because that priest mentioned the poor. A Catholic does not fire a priest for talking about the poor, an Ayn Rand fanatic does. By their fruits. . . Paul is a liar. He’s an utter fraud of a human being, weak, spineless, devoid of principles aside from ‘more for my rich patrons.’ He’s fake everything, including fake Catholic.

    This is as plain as day.

  17. teve tory says:

    dammit. accidentally upvoted my own comment. Weirdly the new system doesn’t have a fix for that.

    But in the grand scheme of things it would hardly be worth fixing.

  18. Monala,

    Please provide me with links to any speech that Ryan has given that even mentions the name “Ayn Rand.”

    And the fact that he believes in God is Exhibit A against the argument that he is in any sense of the term an “Ayn Rand Objectivist”

  19. MarkedMan says:

    This is not meant as a defense of Ryan specifically, but the idea that someone’s Catholicism is phony because he’s not much of a Christian doesn’t seem fair to me. I have no idea what goes on inside Ryan’s head but I have known many people who find solace in religion while not really succeeding in practicing the tenets of that religion. (In fact, if I was religious myself I’d probably be in that camp.). I don’t like Ryan’s politics but I accept that he is as sincere a Catholic as many, and probably more sincere than quite a few.

    Even with people as phony as Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, I never assumed they weren’t sincerely believing Christians. It seems to me that the most important core of Christianity is one’s individual relationship with God. It’s not a test where you don’t get to say religion is important in your life unless you score at least a C Minus on “Implemtimg Christian Philosophy In My Own Life 101”.

  20. Michael,

    He’s an utter fraud of a human being, weak, spineless, devoid of principles aside from ‘more for my rich patrons.

    In all fairness you say that about anyone who disagrees with you.

    But I digress…..

    Anyway, this is, as I said, a pointless conversation that I’ve indulged more than I should have. I’ll just remind everyone of the Comment Policies about keeping comment threads on topic and let you guys play on your own.

  21. MarkedMan says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Re: lShow me the speech”. Perhaps you missed it because of the odd “comments appear and disappear for a while before they finally stick” behavior lately, but did you see my comment above that references a speech Rand gave to a group of Objectivists? The one where he publicly told them she inspired “almost every fight we are involved in, here on Capitol Hill”?

  22. KM says:

    I do have a somewhat technical question. Given that he did resign rather then be fired, what effect does “rescinding his forced resignation” have on whatever compensation and benefits is provided to the post? Does everything go back to status quo and nothing negative happens like Ryan hit a reset button?

  23. teve tory says:

    Please provide me with links to any speech that Ryan has given that even mentions the name “Ayn Rand.”

    Catholic Talk, Ayn Rand Walk.

    If what candidates say in their public speeches were the best indicator of who they really were, we should all be relieved, because then they’re really all stupendous, caring, charitable people.

  24. Monala says:

    @Doug Mataconis: From a 2005 speech Ryan gave to the Atlas Society:

    I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged. People tell me I need to start with The Fountainhead then go to Atlas Shrugged [laughter]. There’s a big debate about that. We go to Fountainhead, but then we move on, and we require Mises and Hayek as well.

    “I always go back to… Francisco d’Anconia’s speech [in Atlas Shrugged] on money when I think about monetary policy.”

    (2:23) But the reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.

  25. Monala says:

    @Doug Mataconis: From a 2012 Ryan campaign video:

    … Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead have served lately with the Obama administration coming in. Because it’s that kind of thinking and writing that is sorely needed right now. And I think a lot of people will observe that we are living in an Ayn Rand novel, metaphorically speaking. But more to the point is this: the issue that is under assault, the attack on democratic capitalism, on individualism and freedom in America, is an attack on the moral foundation of America. And Ayn Rand more than anybody else did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism, and this to me is what matters most. It’s not enough to say that Obama’s taxes are too big, or the healthcare plan doesn’t work for this or that policy reason; it is the morality of what is occurring right now, and how it offends the morality of individuals working of their own free will to produce, to achieve, to succeed, that is under attack. It is that that I think Ayn Rand would be commenting on, and we need that kind of comment more and more than ever.

  26. @Monala:

    So what you’re telling me is that, like many conservatives, Ryan read Rand as a teenager and thinks he understands what she said. If he did, to pick just two examples, he would not be pro-life and he would not believe in a god.

    The reality is that Ryan is a garden variety conservative, certainly not in step with the populist stupidity of Trumpism but willing to sell his soul to it and to the religious right of the GOP. As for the Fr. Conroy thing, I tend to believe that the reasons for his initial dismissal have more to do with the complaints of Evangelicals who didn’t like the fact that the House Chaplain is Catholic than it did to do with one prayer in November that made a vague reference to the tax bill.

  27. Mister Bluster says:

    @teve tory:..because then they’re really all stupendous, caring, charitable people.


  28. @teve tory:

    And you’re the person who gets to decide how Catholic someone is because…….?

    Nancy Pelosi claims to be a Catholic too, and she’s pro-choice.

  29. MarkedMan says:

    I can’t believe I’m bothering with this, but here goes:

    (I won’t provide links because I would get sent to comment prison, but there should be enough there to google anything you are interested in)

    2012 – Interview with the New Yorker titled “Fussbudget”

    Like many conservatives, he claims to have been profoundly affected by Ayn Rand. After reading “Atlas Shrugged,” he told me, “I said, ‘Wow, I’ve got to check out this economics thing.’ What I liked about her novels was their devastating indictment of the fatal conceit of socialism, of too much government.”

    2005 – To the Atlas Society, a Randian fan club

    “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” he told the group. “The fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.” To me he was careful to point out that he rejects Rand’s atheism.

    I’ll include that link to the audio of Paul’s lengthy and effusive praise of Ayn Rand and how it influenced and motivated his life. This wasn’t just a casual mention in passing.

    In 2012 as the Vice Presidential nominee, he started getting grief for this from the evangelical wing of his party because she was an avowed atheist who held those who believed in God with contempt. So he threw her overboard and now says negative things about her. But it is fair to be suspicious of a conversion made not on the road to Damascus but on the road to the White House.

  30. Monala says:

    @Doug Mataconis: So you’re moving the goalposts now? You ask for, “Please provide me with links to any speech that Ryan has given that even mentions the name “Ayn Rand.” I give you two, two in which he talks about Ayn Rand being the reason for his involvement in public service, Ayn Rand being the novelist he insists everyone in his office read, in which he claims that Rand’s thinking is what America needs more than ever, and you still want to insist that she’s someone he read once as a teenager and never really understood or referenced again? You don’t usually make such bad faith arguments. Why are you doing it now?

  31. @Monala:

    Because the speeches don’t really prove your point.

    I’d go into more detail, but I honestly don’t feel like it. As I said above, I’m going to leave you guys to play on your own, which I probably should have done to begin with.

    In any case, perhaps some on-topic comments would be nice.

  32. Leonard says:

    Has anyone here ever recommended a book or an article that they don’t agree with 100%?

    Some people find Ayn Rand to be provocative, because of her approach to economics. Crazy philosophers can be very provocative. There are books I’ve read that have helped shape my thinking that, in retrospect, had a lot of garbage in them. I’ve never read Ayn Rand, so I don’t know what to think of her economics, but if Ryan requires his interns to read von Mises and Hayek, good for them.

    I don’t know why the chaplain was let go, nor does anyone else around here. My guess is that a lot of Southerners would want a chaplain to be a good family man, and they’d say that without even thinking about Catholics, because they’re used to Protestants.

  33. Monala says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The reason why this is on-topic is because some suspect his reason for wanting the priest to resign is due to his devotion to Rand’s teachings, which are contrary to the fairly mild prayer offered by Father Conroy.

  34. Mister Bluster says:

    I, for one, am ready to move to Kentucky just so I can vote for Dandy Randy’s Democratic opponent next time around.
    Unless the Dreamers scare him out of the Bluegrass State before I get there.

  35. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    You’ve left the conversation four times now, by my count. If you’re leaving it, rather than getting huffy about some pet “thing” having been offended, then leave it, otherwise may I suggest dialing down the drama a tad?

    Go talk a walk around and come back?

  36. Monala says:

    @MarkedMan: I agree with you, I don’t think we should usually challenge the veracity of someone else’s faith. I do find it interesting that liberal Christians have their faith questioned by conservatives all the time, based on issues such as LGBT rights or abortion (two topics which are rarely mentioned in the Bible, and by Jesus, not at all); while not supporting the poor and needy doesn’t seem to call into question the faith of conservative Christians, even though the Bible and Jesus’ words are filled with exhortations to help the poor and condemnations of those who don’t.

  37. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:


    It’s not a test where you don’t get to say religion is important in your life unless you score at least a C Minus on “Implemtimg Christian Philosophy In My Own Life 101”

    While I see and accept your point, isn’t it possible that if you’re not scoring a C- on “Implementing…” that you are only kidding yourself about how important religion is in your life?

  38. Leonard says:

    @Monala: Liberals question conservative Christians’ faith all the time, including on this thread. BTW, where does the Bible say that governments should help the poor?

  39. Mister Bluster says:

    Back on Topic

    Now that it has been revealed that the leader of the Republican Party practices Satan’s Family Values, like screwing a porn star soon after his wife gave birth to his son, paying off the porn star, lying about it while throwing his lawyer under the bus and don’t forget grabbing women by the pussy and lusting after his daughter, I can only expect Republicans in the house to recruit a Devil Worshiper to tend to spiritual matters.
    I vaguely remember Reynolds saying that one of his kids was going to conduct a goat sacrifice ritual in class if Teacher led prayer is ever allowed back in the public schools.
    Sounds like just what the House of Representatives needs.

  40. KM says:

    Nancy Pelosi claims to be a Catholic too, and she’s pro-choice.

    And her Catholicism gets mentioned and called into question for it too. Fairly too – she’s not adhering to the faith’s position so what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. People give Pelosi crap for being a bad Catholic so Ryan’s just going to have to take it on the chin.

    To bring it back around to the point of the thread, what happened here is the inevitable conflict between Evangelical and Catholic beliefs on everything other then abortion and LBGT issues. Sure, they’re great bedfellows on those but unfortunately that’s where the similarities really end. As I mentioned, Catholics are big in to social justice and tend to be pro-immigrant, putting them at odds with a lot of GOP dogma. This isn’t’ the first time we’ve seen Evangelicals try to sideline Catholic “allies” when their ideologies start conflicting. When the Jesuit chaplain got a little too big for his britches by, you know, being Jesuit and giving a crap about things that Jesuits are known to care about he’s suddenly being asked to GTFO with no history of prior issues. His theoretical replacement immediately gets a suggested requirement that would disqualify him and others like him from serving again. However, the people who want him gone would have no trouble finding one of their own to side on in and reassure them that they’re not violating God’s Word and probably cite some Prosperity Gospel nonsense to justify it. Luckily for him, enough Congress critters either liked him or recognized what a bad idea this was and jumped on Ryan to change his mind. After all, for all their rhetoric on “religious freedom” on the job, they literally just forced a guy who’s job is religion out because they didn’t like how he was applying said religion.

    Tl:dr Ryan pulled a stupid move that made him look bad to millions of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, some Evangelicals in Congress made it worse by trying to horn in before the seat was cold and then Ryan folded like he always did when pressured. The winner? Conroy, for speaking up on something that mattered to him, telling the Speaker of the House what he can and can’t do like a boss and then just sitting back to watch him get pwned by his own party.

  41. gVOR08 says:

    Jeez, I was trying to make a funny @gVOR08: , albeit a true, and somewhat tragic funny, not start a fight.

  42. Monala says:

    @Leonard: As I understand it, for the ancient Israelites, the Torah was their law book.* Their constitution, as you will. And it has instructions in there about collecting the tithe annually, which every three years was placed in a storehouse for the poor. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). In other words, they were required by their lawmakers to give a certain percentage of their income to support those in need. That sounds a lot more like government taxation and distribution than free will charity. Furthermore, there is no where in Scripture where it says governments can’t help the poor. And the prophets often challenged kings — who were government rulers — when they neglected or oppressed the poor.

    * I am speaking from my understanding as someone raised Christian. I realize that Jewish people often have a different understanding of their faith and Scriptures.

  43. HarvardLaw92 says:


    I’m not even sure that it was ever about religion, although I will agree that evangelicals do tend to be “my way or the highway”, about everything …

    I think, frankly, that he said something – subtle criticism of tax policy – that pissed off a few Teatard members of Congress. I’ll go so far as to say that I suspect that one of them subsequently identified himself as being one of the complainers. Ryan stupidly tried to solve what it seems he would have regarded as a political problem without considering the religious implications, and the consequences of that failure bit him in the ass.

    Few people are actually devout. Most use religion as a prop (or a cudgel) for their own secular purposes. As we’re seeing quite clearly of late, that certainly includes evangelicals.

  44. Monala says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Conroy seemed to think it was due to the prayer. The followup, with evangelical representatives talking about getting a “family man” in the position, reveals some anti-Catholic bias, but that doesn’t explain Ryan’s actions.

  45. KM says:

    @HarvardLaw92 :
    Oh, it was totally about him sounding off on the tax thing. The problem for them is they’ve been screaming about “religious freedom” in the workplace for the last few years and suddenly when they run into a situation that’s a textbook example of their logic, they promptly fail their own standards in an incredibly obvious way. It’s not gone unnoticed among the Catholic community that someone spoke up regarding their beliefs *in a prayer* and got forced to resign for it.

    They talk about bakers, artists and nurses getting screwed for their faith and they are *outraged*…. then comes the priest getting canned for a *prayer* (even if it was for other things, this is what’s gonna make the soundbite). If Ryan had two brain cells in his head, he can’t possibly have missed the religious implications of it especially his own party is pushing this thought process along to their base. Which keeps leading us right back to the Catholic aspect of this and why it’s so prominent. The outrage if an Evangelical of any stripe getting forced out for commentary-as-prayer would have set DC on fire and yes there’s a damning silence from the usual quarters. Ryan was on the wrong end of a power play alright but it wasn’t the one he thought he was running.

  46. Leonard says:

    @Monala: I can see charity through the community of believers. That makes sense to me practically, and I can see it biblically. If the religion is the state, I can see the state enforcing charity, but only because it’s the religion, not because it’s the state. I don’t see a biblical justification for a non-religious entity enforcing charity.

  47. MarkedMan says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Nancy Pelosi claims to be a Catholic too, and she’s pro-choice.

    It cannot be pointed out often enough that the Catholic and Protestant obsession with abortion is a very recent thing. In fact, for literally millennia Catholic Theologians discussed whether babies had souls before baptism. There is no mention of abortion in the Bible and not much mention of fetuses. Exodus does mention some “case law” where a woman is harmed and loses the fetus, but that loss is treated as property damage and not murder.

    Up until the 1970’s or ’80s there were three schools of thought: a baby became a full person at baptism, at first breath, or at “quickening”, which means when the baby starts kicking in the womb. The “Life begins at conception” conceit is only a few decades old (and is nonsense to boot) and a cynic might say this new interpretation has more to do with the need to distract from the hierarchy’s own sins than any sudden revelation by God that he had changed his mind. (I would be such a cynic)

  48. de stijl says:

    Conroy did write The Great Santini, so he has that going for him.

    Has to be the same guy, right? I mean – how many people are named Pat Conroy?

  49. MarkedMan says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    isn’t it possible that if you’re not scoring a C- on “Implementing…” that you are only kidding yourself

    It may sound illogical but I don’t think that. Again, I’m not in any way shape or form religious myself, but I’ve been around religious people my whole life, and spent 12 years in Catholic schools. I may have “taken the cure” but I still have respect for those who are of faith. And my understanding is that the way you act is an aspect of your religious life, but it is not the only aspect or even the most important one. I think many priests and preachers would contend that it is exactly the worst sinners that need to bond with God the most. And the core of that bond is all about them and God. Actions towards others are a separate issue.

    Putting religion aside for a moment, I have two intelligent people in my life who regularly lash out at others and say mean and hurtful things and drive away friends and family. And I think both of them think much more about how they treat other people and have many regrets about it. I know they want to lose that anger and not be so harsh and wish with all their might that they weren’t the way they were, but struggle every day against their worse natures. On the other hand, because of my good fortune in my genes and how I was raised I behave better towards people then they do. But at the same time I know they are more focused and insightful on how they behave. I know they spend more time than I do in trying to change their behavior. So the analogy to religion is that you can’t really judge someone’s yearning and desire to be closer to their god by whether or not they act as that god would want them to. You would have to look in their thoughts, which we can’t do.

  50. Scott says:

    @KM: This all reminds me of a story a few years back about a pastor in Mississippi who read the Beatitudes as part of a sermon and some members started walking out.

  51. KM says:


    I don’t see a biblical justification for a non-religious entity enforcing charity.

    Better question: why do you need a specific injunction to justify the government helping the poor in terms of morality? Can’t helping the poor be a good deed for good deed’s sake? Do you really need God telling you that you *must* , turning it from altruistic charity into a forced unpleasant duty? I find it very curious that many are so quick to say we are a Christianity-based nation only to turn right around and decry that the Bible doesn’t say squat about government charity. A Christian *should* want the government to be charitable as charity is a virtue and they should strive to live under a virtuous leadership. Instead, we see many hemming and hawing about how since it’s not specifically spelled out, they don’t have to and some group will pick up the slack without any care for what happens if it doesn’t. It all comes down to money in the end and Mammon has the final say; a private faith-based charity can pick and choose the worthy to lavish their dollars on while abandoning those they dislike but the government must serve all for all are equal under the law. Tell me, of those two positions which sounds more Christ-like?

    In practical terms however, the government ensuring it’s citizens don’t starve or lack for basic necessities is eminently reasonable. After all, a citizenry that’s cared for is one that’s not prone to rioting, rebellion or thievery in order to live. Many of the angry youth that end up joining organisations such as gangs or terrorist cells do so because those groups offer stability and succor the government doesn’t. Governments throughout history have fallen when the people have had enough of begging for scraps and decide to hang the rich and powerful who horde it all. If nothing else, charity is a function any sane government should indulge in for it’s own survival.

    Either way, the Biblical justification for government charity is the same as the secular one: it’s a good thing to help your fellow man instead of hording resources you don’t need. The only difference is the terminology (greed and good deed vs selfishness and altruism)

  52. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @de stijl:

    Not for nothing, but Pat Conroy (author) is deceased (and has been for some time now …)

  53. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Boom 🙂

  54. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    He goes to church every Sunday, his kids go to Catholic school, he’s talked about his faith far more than he’s ever talked about Ayn Rand.

    This Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand canard that the left keeps pushing is as dumb as the people who keep attacking Elizabeth Warren over her ancestry or calling Hillary Clinton a socialist.

    I’m generally with you on this.

    The only thing Ryan has in common with Ayn Rand is that Rand decried dependency on the State, and … YET … she availed herself of Social Security and Medicare benefits like everyone else who becomes eligible.

    And so too does Paul Ryan decry the costs of Medicare and Social Security, and wants to reduce those programs, and privatize them .. YET … he was the beneficiary of Social Security survivor benefits that enabled him to attend a public university.

    Both have a similar lack of appreciation for worthwhile public earned benefit programs.

  55. gVOR08 says:


    a cynic might say this new interpretation (life begins at conception) has more to do with the need to distract from the hierarchy’s own sins than any sudden revelation by God that he had changed his mind. (I would be such a cynic)

    I would be too, but it’s been my understanding that Catholics have long held life (possession of a soul) begins at conception, hence their objection at the time to Roe v Wade. Protestants, however, generally held “life” began at birth and initially had no real problem with Roe v Wade. Remember the huge demonstrations in the streets protesting RvW? Me neither, weren’t any. But the TV preachers saw Catholics raising money on the issue and decided to change their theology to get in on the game. Hence the line, “Last year Jerry Falwell couldn’t spell abortion.”

    I have respect and sympathy for Catholics who oppose abortion. I have greater respect for the Pelosis and Bidens who decide that their faith imposes obligations on them, but not an obligation to impose the practice of their faith on others. I have nothing but contempt for the Evangelical preachers and politicians for whom abortion rights are a fundraising opportunity and another divisive social issue to run on instead of policy.

  56. de stijl says:


    It did crack me up when I saw this guy’s name was Pat Conroy.

    I pictured the Chaplain walking away from Ryan in Bull Meechum mode, while the Speaker repeatedly doinking a basketball off the back of his head and taunting him.

  57. Monala says:

    @de stijl: Even funnier for this discussion, Pat Conroy often wrote about the weirdness of being a Catholic living among so many evangelicals in the South.

  58. Mister Bluster says:

    @Leonard:..I don’t see a biblical justification for a non-religious entity enforcing charity.

    The Bible was written by human beings. Human beings make mistakes.

  59. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08: Whether fetuses had souls or not has been discussed for millennia, with arguments made on both sides. It is true that late stage abortion was almost always considered a sin, and early stage abortion was often but not always considered a sin. Bear in mind though that sexual sins during this time were a dime a dozen. Notably, I’m willing to bet that every male reading this has committed the sin of Onan, punishable by death.

    My point is that while abortion was a sin the past, it was one amongst many thousands and usually ignored. It has only been in the past few decades that the Church paid much attention to it at all.

  60. Monala says:

    @gVOR08: I think Doug had an unusually strong reaction to your comment (and the ones that followed regarding Ryan and Rand); hence all the discussion.

    I wonder why? I have sometimes thought to myself that James often reacts more strongly to problems within the GOP than Doug does, even when he disagrees with [whatever current GOP issue is under discussion] because he has more emotional attachments to the GOP than does Doug, who I think identifies as libertarian. This is not a criticism, btw; as an African-American, I tend to have strong reactions to criticisms of Obama because of the emotional attachments I feel toward him and his family. Likewise, it seems that discussing Ayn Rand brought out some strong emotions in Doug.

  61. wr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “If he did, to pick just two examples, he would not be pro-life and he would not believe in a god.”

    You keep pronouncing that Ryan can’t be a Randian because he believes in God — how do you know that he believes in God? Because he says so? He says he believes in protecting Social Security and Medicare and helping the poor, and then acts in a completely opposite manner. So why should we believe his declarations of faith?

  62. wr says:

    @Leonard: “I don’t see a biblical justification for a non-religious entity enforcing charity.”

    I’m guessing you have one of those special Alabama bibles — you know, the one where the entire text has been replaced with “God hates fags.”

  63. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Leonard: I think that you might have some problems from Conservatives/Evangelicals with the whole “non-religious entity” thing if you weren’t talking about the social safety net, so good selection of context for your argument. Expect to see it offered up by someone from Fox News or Red State soon.

  64. Leonard says:

    @wr: Maybe you missed the word “enforcing”. Am I overlooking something?

  65. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @de stijl: Pat Conroy, author, per Wikipedia

    Born: October 26, 1945, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
    Died: March 4, 2016, Beaufort, South Carolina, USA
    Cause of Death: Pancreatic cancer

    I’m guessing not the same person.

  66. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: As I said, I see your point–both of them in fact. We may end up disagreeing (I’m not done processing your thinking and don’t see a need to comment further), but you make a relevant argument. Thank you for the exchange,

  67. teve tory says:

    Ryan may believe in god, who knows. But Rand’s monomaniacal fixation on letting strong and rich people dominate everyone else either economically, or, like that Taggart ancestor in Atlas, by just murdering anyone who stands in his way, is perfectly compatible with the authoritarian assholes known as the conservative base. Rand would have voted a sandwich out of a starving kid’s mouth, and Ryan and the rest of them would too.

    Williams was surprised by these billionaires’ concern with such small-time scams, but Williams said Charles Koch told him, “I want my share, and that’s everything.”

    –Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

    They’re all functionally psychopaths.

  68. Jen says:


    Even funnier for this discussion, Pat Conroy often wrote about the weirdness of being a Catholic living among so many evangelicals in the South.

    I was a Catholic working in Republican politics amongst evangelicals in a state that has a split personality between being Southern and being Midwestern.

    There’s definitely some level of religious bigotry to this, I’m utterly convinced of it. They’ll smile and say “bless your heart” through their teeth, but bottom line for some evangelicals, Catholics are the Cult of Mary, and are barely a religion. I’ve had my fill of them for a lifetime.

  69. de stijl says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    I guess I should have appended my original Pat Conroy with a smiley.

    I know they’re not the same person . The author Pat Conroy wrote The Great Santini and The Prince Of Tides and was definitely not a priest.

    I was just having fun with his name. I had imagined Paul Ryan as Bull Meechum (who looks like a youngish Robert Duvall with a high-and-tight) bouncing a basketball off the back of Conroy’s head (that image makes sense, oddly enough; you’ll have to trust me if you haven’t seen the movie), and it amused me.

  70. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    I sometimes think Atlas Shrugged should be required reading for several weeks around high school. Chapter by chapter with discussions in detail, with particular attention paid to Adam Lee’s response to Atlas Shrugged. At the end, have the students write a paper defending Rand or Lee.

    You’d pretty much know everything you need to know about them as human beings at that point.

  71. An Interested Party says:

    Maybe he’s a Poinsettia-n-Lily or a cafeteria Catholic, possibly a cultural one.

    It is rather amusing that the term “cafeteria Catholic” has often been tagged on progressive Catholics who believe in the use of birth control or are opposed to capital punishment, among other issues…meanwhile, it seems like a lot of conservative Catholics are often sitting at the lunch counter themselves, what with their hostile views of social justice or the protection of the environment, among other issues…

    I’ll just remind everyone of the Comment Policies about keeping comment threads on topic and let you guys play on your own.

    Excuse me, but if Ryan really did try to get rid of this priest because of the priest’s comments about the tax bill, then Ryan’s own views, alleged or otherwise, are very relevant to this thread…oh, and considering that Ryan is the leader of the legislative branch of the federal government, it is quite appropriate to question what he truly believes and what he merely just says…as you yourself pointed out, he sold his soul for political power…such a person probably isn’t all that sincere in his alleged faith…

  72. de stijl says:

    I’m totally taking back all of my make-you-fell-better-hand-waves about my about my Pat Conroy bit.

    All y’all know how to google.

    And if you do not realize that:

    Has to be the same guy, right? I mean – how many people are named Pat Conroy?

    means that I’m super confused about that man’s name is that I’m stymied that he has the same as someone else’s is pretty ludicrous; and it means you have crappy interpersonal and interpretative skills.

    Monala got it. HarvardLawyer92 got it. This is a sophisticated joint. Hand-holding you through the basics and apologizing to you for not getting basic stuff is annoying.

    Seriously, I cited a work totally unattached to anything that the House Chaplain would ever do.

  73. wr says:

    @Leonard: “Maybe you missed the word “enforcing”. Am I overlooking something?”

    You mean aside from the point of everything Jesus says in the Bible?

  74. Ben Wolf says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I don’t think you should avoid talking about this subject. In fact I think you should engage it a lot more often. For example, few people seem to understand Ayn Rand and Objectivist philosophy were and are hostile to libertarianism which, if we include traditional libertarianism, includes an extremely diverse range of opinion.

    Yes, people will give you shit about it. Just ignore that and argue your beliefs in good faith with the people who do the same.

  75. Ben Wolf says:

    @Monala: I would guess it’s because Doug doesn’t like the confusion of Objectivism with libertarianism and the reflexive hostility he gets because of that confusion.

    Keep in mind people who call themselves libertarians are marching in France under this:

  76. Mister Bluster says:

    @wr:..aside from the point of everything Jesus says in the Bible?

    All of Jesus’ words in the Bible were recorded by someone else. Jesus never wrote anything.

  77. de stijl says:

    Ayn is a pretty Elvish name. And Rand is likely short for Rando of the Calryssian Rando’s.

    So she was a incognito princess. Impoverished and alone and fighting for a scrap of dignity and purpose and a bit of food and somewhere warm to sleep away from the rats and the cats and the street people in a scary-new cloud city very much like Arya Stark.

    After Galt’s Gulch was sacked by the Uruk-hai and The Republic installed a Lannister lesser cousin as the pro-tem administrator (his livery was a golden lion eating a tauntaun resplendent on a bed of royal purple fringed in silver), she had few options available to her. But she had a magic coin that granted her membership to a cult of kindly and thoughtful assassins. So she made her way.

    But beware! The Force tells us that winter is coming; yet, also be heartened as not all who wander are lost.

  78. Leonard says:

    @wr: Your responsibility to give to your neighbor doesn’t give you the right to take from your neighbor.

  79. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @de stijl: Although the late author DID have an uncle who was a priest (I forget said uncle’s name). In Pat’s opinion, his uncle was a thorough horse’s a**.

  80. de stijl says:


    The Irish are as inscrutable as The Chinaman.

    (No smiley. Actually after some considered thought, anti-smiley. Not towards you, but others less savvy.)

    Have you seen the story about the R candidate for WV Governor Blankenship and what he said about McConnell? It is astounding.

  81. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    What does a anti-smiley look like? It’s not a frown.

    What does condescending dismissal look like as an emoji?

  82. Monala says:

    @Ben Wolf: I appreciate your response. I’d be interested in reading more from Doug about that.

  83. de stijl says:

    George RR Martin will be releasing a new book this year. It will not be A Dream Of Spring but Fire and Blood, dealing with the history of House Targaryen.

    One quarter will be devoted to what people are wearing. One quarter will be devoted to what people are eating. Guaranteed.

    I’m an idiot and I’ll probably buy and read it anyway.

    I’ve never done a four-way mash-up before: Rand, Tolkein, Martin, and Star Wars.

  84. Ben Wolf says:

    @Monala: I would too. I’ve been reading amd commenting here for eight years, and Doug has never said much about it.

  85. Mister Bluster says:

    @Ben Wolf:..I like the one with le félin!