There is a Roll Call story today that suggests that bad vetting went into the nomination of a new chaplain in the House, Fr. Pat Conroy. It also suggests that Nancy Pelosi is all too willing to throw the good priest under the Beltway bus, as they say.
Fr. Conroy is being implicated in a settlement involving accusations that have nothing to do with him. In fact, to the extent it has anything to do with him, he appears to be a hero of the story. As Roll Call explains:
The Very Rev. Patrick Lee, superior of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, said in a statement that he is “deeply disappointed” by the reaction to Conroy’s nomination.
“Fr. Conroy is an excellent priest worthy of the nomination made by Speaker Boehner,” Lee said. “He has never been the subject of an allegation of child abuse.”
The Rev. Patrick Howell, a member of the Oregon Province and rector of the Jesuit community at Seattle University, where Conroy worked for four years in the 1990s, said that most incidents of abuse happened decades ago and that the perpetrators are “under supervision and very restricted.”
“Safeguards were put in to protect children. We all go through a training each year, both for the archdiocese and Jesuit order,” he said. “If anything, we’re probably better qualified to reach out to people in need and to understand the different trials and crises that people go through.”
Those safeguards were not yet in place in 1986, when Conroy, three years out of college, informed a superior about a Roman Catholic priest whom he suspected of abusing a boy.
The Seattle Times reported in 2002 that Conroy wrote a letter in 1986 to then-Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen stating that a boy told him that he had been abused by a priest when he was 12 or 13 at a parish in Snohomish, Wash.
As Bill Donahue succinctly puts it:
Rev. Patrick Conroy was selected by House Speaker John Boehner to be the new House Chaplain, and within no time the Jesuit priest won the plaudits of many Catholics, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi. But now Pelosi is having second thoughts, citing Conroy’s association with the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus. Why? Because of claims of sexual abuse made against these Jesuits. Were there accusations made against Father Conroy? No. Are the accusations recent? No, they extend back decades. Did Father Conroy have any role to play? Yes—he was a whistleblower who reported at least one case of an abusive priest.
Speaker Boehner’s office wholeheartedly refutes the suggestion that the vetting process for the chaplain nomination left anything to be desired. “Both Speaker Boehner and Democratic Leader Pelosi reviewed Fr. Conroy’s background and interviewed him before the Speaker selected him to be our next chaplain,” a senior aide tells me.
Capitol Police, House counsel, and the chief administrative officer all vetted the Jesuit priest — he was subject to a criminal-background check, court records, credit checks, public-record checks, and an IRS check. The settlement “never came up — because it had nothing to do with Fr. Conroy,” the Boehner spokesman tells me. “The settlement of claims against the Society of Jesus in Oregon is the result of abuse that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s — before Fr. Conroy became a Jesuit. It has been widely reported, including in the New York Times. The lawsuit had nothing at all to do with Fr. Conroy.”
Further, “Fr. Conroy did hear an allegation of an instance of abuse in 1986. He took immediate and appropriate action, notifying his superiors in the church. Rep. Pelosi’s staff was aware of that incident.”
Boehner’s office continues its full-throated support of the priest: “Fr. Conroy was honest and candid with the Speaker and Rep. Pelosi throughout the selection process, and the Speaker is confident he will be a great chaplain for the entire House of Representatives community.”
When the chaplain announcement was made last week, Fr. Conroy had the support of the former Speaker. Nothing has happened that should have changed that. Nancy Pelosi, has been known to ignore that which is a political headache to her — including when coming from nuns — owes the nominee more: basic fairness.
Is there a prayer that other members of Congress do due diligence and read to the end of the story?