NJ Politics Digest: MacArthur Objects to Probe Into Catholic Chaplain Controversy

Tom MacArthur.

Tom MacArthur. Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

New Jersey Congressman Tom MacArthur doesn’t want a probe into why GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan tried to fire the House of Representatives’ Catholic chaplain—and he got into a shouting match on the house floor over the issue.

News reports say MacArthur, an Episcopalian, came over to the Democrats’ side of the aisle to say he was “offended” that New York Democrat Joe Crowley, a Catholic, was pushing for a special investigation into Ryan’s attempts to force the resignation of Father Patrick Conroy.

In published reports, Conroy has said he has never heard any complaints about his performance as chaplin and that a Ryan aide who told him to resign said the speaker – who has made much of his Catholic background – thought it was time for a chaplin who “wasn’t a Catholic,” according to CNN.

The aide, Ryan’s chief of staff Jonathan Burks, has claimed he never said that to the 67-year-old Jesuit priest, according to POLITICO. Conroy, the 60th house chaplin, is only the second Catholic priest to hold the position since it was created in 1789, according to reports.

Ryan has said several members of Congress have complained that their “pastoral needs” were not being met by the priest. This has led to speculation that Ryan was caving to anti-Catholic sentiment from evangelical Republicans.

There has also been speculation that Ryan was upset with Conroy’s prayers, which seemed to indicate opposition to the Republican tax plan. The speaker backed off his plan to oust the priest when Conroy withdrew his resignation and Democrats and some Republicans rallied to his side.

MacArthur, who voted for the tax plan, claims to pray regularly with the Catholic priest.
MacArthur confronted Crowley as the Democrat attempted to offer a resolution to form a committee to investigate the Conroy situation. The Republican told CNN he said Crowley needed “to let go of this.”

“I’m not the one politicizing this,” Crowley replied, according to CNN. “The speaker is politicizing this.”

Crowley also challenged MacArthur as to why the Republican did not want the facts about the controversy to come out, a spokeswoman for the Democrat told The Record.

Quote of the Day: “What was most distressing was why Mr. MacArthur was so uncomfortable with anyone asking for a straightforward review of why the speaker fired the Catholic chaplain.” — Lauren French, spokeswoman for Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley.

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NJ Politics Digest: MacArthur Objects to Probe Into Catholic Chaplain Controversy