A Jesuit in the House of Representatives

by Maureen Fiedler

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Jesuit Fr. Patrick Conroy is our lead guest on Interfaith Voices this week. He is the new Chaplain of the House of Representatives, only the second Catholic to hold that post.

He has a varied background. He is a lawyer who once thought about running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. But he felt a call from God that led him to enter the Jesuits, the Oregon Province. There he ministered for five years on a Native American reservation ("not a normal career path to the House of Representatives," he says). Later, he served as a chaplain at Georgetown University, and most recently taught theology to ninth graders at a Jesuit High School ("improvisational acting for 55 minutes several times a day," he calls it).

He is now the 60th Chaplain of the House of Representatives, a position where he received the bi-partisan support of both Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi.

His appointment stirred some controversy because the sex abuse scandal had sent the Oregon Province of the Jesuits into a $166 million bankruptcy settlement. Conroy himself was never accused, and he says that all the cases in question preceded his entry into the Jesuits and he did not deal either with the cases or the bankruptcy.

He also once wrote to Archbishop Hunthausen about a young man's claim that a priest had propositioned him, but never heard back. When I asked if he was delinquent in not following up, he said he did not believe it was his place. "That's not how hierarchies work," he said. All too true. I did not think to ask it at the time, but isn't that much of the problem? There is no structure of accountability, such that a good man like Conroy felt it was "not his place" to check with the Archbishop.

Here's the link to entire interview.

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