Paul Ryan, Censor Deputatus


By Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor 

I’ll admit that I had no idea who was serving as Chaplain of the House of Representatives until the recent controversy over the forced resignation of Fr. Patrick Conroy, S.J. But if someone had told me only that a Catholic priest had just been fired as House Chaplain, I would have guessed that he was a Jesuit.

The Society of Jesus has been a thorn in the side of princes and popes for centuries. Jesuits have been periodically banned by kings and suppressed by the Church, but they have always returned to continue speaking truth to power, inspired by a rich tradition of Ignatian spirituality and a fierce intellectual independence. My own alma mater, Jesuit High School in El Paso, Texas, occupied a campus built by Mexican Jesuits during a period of anti-clerical political repression in Mexico.

While I was still contemplating the meaning of the termination, the resulting political outcry resulted in Paul Ryan’s capitulation to political reality and Fr. Conroy’s reinstatement. But the question remains: what was behind the request for his resignation? The explanation initially provided, that he was not meeting the “pastoral needs” of  his congressional flock, struck me as contrived. Nor did I buy into the excuse that he was a victim of generalized anti-Catholic attitudes among certain House members. The correct answer, I believe, lies behind Fr. Conroy’s own comments that he had been asked to “stay out of politics” following a prayer before the opening of a House session on the then pending tax overhaul bill. The words of that prayer suggest that Fr. Conroy’s sin was primarily theological.

The flap over Fr. Conroy’s prayer was not Paul Ryan’s first Jesuit rodeo. In 2012 he spoke at Georgetown University in defense of a proposed budget that would have privatized Medicare and substantially cut funding for Medicaid and food stamps. Although he argued that his plan was in keeping with Catholic “social doctrine as best I can make of it,” his comments were met with a letter signed by numerous members of the Georgetown faculty asserting that “your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

I am one who shares James Madison’s view that a system of paid government chaplains violates the Establishment Clause. And I am not persuaded by the Supreme Court’s opinion in Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983), in which a majority of the Court essentially held that religious ceremonial traditions of sufficiently long duration are entitled to a sort of Establishment Clause exemption when they “become a part of the fabric of our society.” 463 U.S. at 792. Since there is no risk that I will ever serve on the Supreme Court, the Marsh decision is safe for the present.

But the Conroy controversy illuminates some of the flaws in that decision. It appears that a portion of the offending prayer called on Congress to enact tax legislation that “guarantees that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.” For many of us, those words reflect both a secular and a religious standard that laws ought not favor the economically privileged at the expense of the poor. For many in the evangelical community, however, they express a radical rejection of a brand of theology that regards wealth as evidence of God’s favor and poverty a consequence of sin and slothful behavior.

It is not a state secret that President Trump and a majority of evangelicals maintain a tight embrace. His Evangelical Advisory Board is largely comprised of purveyors of prosperity theology and Christian dominionism, a belief that Christians must control every social and political institution in order to establish a theocratic republic governed strictly by biblical principles of righteousness, as dominionists define them. Paula White, a member of the board who professes to be the President’s spiritual adviser, has proclaimed that Mr. Trump was “raised up by God.”  The President’s decision to move the American embassy in Israel to Jersusalem has been hailed by evangelicals who look forward to the rapture. And the choice of Mike Pence as Vice-President convinced most evangelicals that a new day had dawned for the promotion of their legislative policies.

In line with Paul Ryan’s Randian views of society, Christian dominionists oppose any government funding of social welfare programs, regarding it as a form of charity reserved for faith-based organizations. Fr. Conroy’s prayer, therefore, although consistent with the Catholic Compendium of the Social Doctrine, was indeed heretical, as contrary to the emerging evangelical religious-political orthodoxy, a merger of fundamentalist Christian thought with Republican small-government philosophy under the banner of laissez-faire capitalism as a biblical mandate.

Which brings us back to Marsh v. Chambers. The great political divide in this country has been accompanied by a great religious divide. A toleration of divergent religious opinion is increasingly absent from contemporary dialogue. The Marsh Court relied on a bit of nostalgia, evoking a history framed by an inoffensive Protestant tradition of generic recognition of the Almighty. That time is gone. Religious institutions are demanding an increased role in the formulation of public policy, and an increased share of public funds. Fr. Conroy’s prayer was a reminder that there are many, and varied, versions of religious thought.

The current state of Establishment Clause jurisprudence is best described as a mess. There is a need to restore that clause to its rightful place as a defender of religious pluralism. But that will require a return to a classical understanding of church-state separation and a rejection of current efforts to make government the exclusive agent of one narrowly drawn definition of religious truth. That will not happen under the current Administration.

Sources: Elizabeth Dias and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Firing of House Chaplain Causes Uproar on Capitol Hill,” New York Times (April 27, 2018); Jason Le Mare, “Donald Trump’s Spiritual Adviser Paula White Is Telling Women And Megachurch Pastors To Vote Republican In November,” Newsweek (April 25, 2018); Michael Gerson, “The Last Temptation,” The Atlantic (April, 2018); Sean Illing, “This is why evangelicals love Trump’s Israel Policy,” Vox (December 12, 2017); Chris Lehmann, “How the prosperity gospel explains Donald Trump’s popularity with Christian voters,” Washington Post (July 15, 2016); Jason Hackworth, “Faith Based: Religious Neoliberalism and the Politics of Welfare in the United States,” (University of Georgia Press 2012); Ariel Edwards-Levy, “Paul Ryan Defends Budget’s Catholic Principles At Georgetown University,” Huffington Post (April 26, 2012).

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend contributors. As an open forum, weekend contributors post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and displays of art are solely their decision and responsibility.

87 thoughts on “Paul Ryan, Censor Deputatus”

  1. Nothing in history has done more to incinerate black US culture and livelihood than these two items: LBJ’s so-called “War on Poverty” and Roe v. Wade ruling resulting in 45% death rate for unborn US blacks.

    Jim Crowe law, black lynchings, and the KKK combined have nothing on the above 2 items. When did all of the prior three items cause the legal, untimely, and continual death of 45% of unborn blacks? Answer: never. When did the above 3 items cause a 75% unwed birth rate for blacks, the single greatest denominator for poverty?

    Current unwed mothers not only give birth with no shame whatsoever, but they also claim permanent victimhood status while gleefully collecting government checks, insuring they have no financial need for the father’s presence so he can impregnate others with impunity.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  2. If there are to be “no winners and losers” in tax laws, we should eliminate those “progressive” tax schemes that disproportionally punish “the rich,” and force the 40% or so of American citizens currently not required to pay income tax to pony up.

    1. The “40% or so” are directly assessed for payroll taxes, indirectly assessed for property taxes, and assessed indirectly or directly for property taxes. They don’t pay income taxes because they are impecunious.

      1. indirectly assessed for sales taxes and directly or indirectly assessed for property taxes depending on whether they own or rent.

  3. Jesuits certainly aren’t what they used to be, and for the most part, they seem to be resting on a reputation of their glory days that are increasingly more distant and irrelevant. I attended Jesuit law schools at the Univ of San Francisco and Georgetown. There is absolutely no Jesuit, or even Catholic, influence in either. The faculties are left-wing, majority Jewish, holdovers from the 1960s who found themselves cushy faculty positions from which to spout their stale ideologies. The administration is only “Catholic” when it is financially beneficial. For example, Georgetown suddenly became Catholic when they were expected to provide health insurance for their employees and used that as an excuse to oppose paying for family planning medical services, yet this same college has a Greek Orthodox teaching classes for students wishing to convert to Catholicism, because their priests are too lazy to bother with it. The glory days of the Jesuits were from around 1850 to 1920, when massive waves of Catholic immigrants from Ireland, Italy and Germany needed educating. The Jesuits stepped up and provided fine educational experiences that lifted many from poverty to the professions in one generation. But those days are long gone. Most elite Catholics want their kids to go to the Ivy League, and the majority of students at Catholic colleges are no longer Catholic. I’m not sure that there is any reason to provide tax breaks to Catholic colleges which are Catholic in name only.

    1. Pretty much all Catholic colleges are low grade embarrassments and properly stripped of their listing in the Catholic directory. There are some small institutions which are still worthwhile and the corporate organization of Catholic University renders it salvageable. State corporate law should put nearly all private institution under the government of trustees elected by a corps of stakeholders under the supervision of the secretary of state or board of elections.

    1. Excerpted from the article linked above:

      With this in mind, the Magisterium will examine those works, particularly books, on faith and morals and pronounce whether they are free from doctrinal error.

      [Several sentences edited]

      The review process would then begin with the author submitting the manuscript to the censor deputatus, who is appointed by the bishop or other ecclesiastical authority to make such examinations. If the censor deputatus finds no doctrinal error in the work, he grants a nihil obstat attesting to this. Translated as “nothing stands in the way,” the nihil obstat indicates that the manuscript can be safely forwarded to the bishop for his review and decision.

      1. The Nihil Obstat and imprimatur are necessary only for theological works.

      2. If I’m not entirely mistaken, Mike Appleton might be implying that Speaker Ryan, acting in the guise of a censor deputatus, found a doctrinal error in Fr. Conroy’s prayer. Except that it was an error of political doctrine or an ideological faux pas. If so, then Mike Appleton’s opposition to “a system of paid government chaplains” makes more sense than first meets the eye. Religion needs to be protected from the government.

  4. So Father Conroy is more in tune with “liberation theology” Good for him! The war on the poor is an abomination.

    1. There is no ‘war on the poor’ and ‘liberation theology’ was an attempt to baptize Marxism, not anything from which anyone benefits.

      1. Current Pope comes from that liberation background. And yes, there is a war on the poor

        1. The current pope is notable for not having a serious thought in his head. Terms like ‘twitter magisterium’ and ‘airline magisterium’ are used to describe his ‘teaching’.

          And the object of his ire are the traditional orders like the Franciscan Friars, who have been treated abominably by the Holy See.

        2. There is no ‘war on the poor’. That’s a witless bit of political sloganeering traded in by people like Barbara Ehrenreich.

          1. Mespo – there are many organizations making $$ off poverty. It’s job security for various special interests. Check out “Poverty, Inc”.

            1. I agree with that statement. It’s a product of the welfare mentality where many cash in on the misplaced compassion of the Left and do so with corruption in their heart.

            2. I also agree. Many charities serve only to guarantee six-figure salaries for administrators and to engage in empire building and is now the reason I no longer give to organized charities outside the church that are not medical in charter.

    2. “Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila has given one of the most powerful elections statements by any Catholic leader. He says Catholics in good conscience can’t support candidates who are pro-abortion.

      But Archbishop Aquila goes further. He says Democrats are “aggressively pro-abortion” because they are pushing taxpayer funding of abortions and because they will appoint judges who support abortion. Naturally that includes Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president who is spearheading that agenda.

      Archbishop Aquila also complains about how Democrats are pushing to overturn the Helms Amendment, which prevents forcing taxpayers from promoting and performing abortions in other countries.

      On the other hand, the Catholic leader praises the Republican Party platform for opposing taxpayer funding of abortion and defunding the Planned Parenthood abortion business as well as opposing dismemberment abortions and assisted suicide.”

  5. It appears that a portion of the offending prayer called on Congress to enact tax legislation that “guarantees that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.” For many of us, those words reflect both a secular and a religious standard that laws ought not favor the economically privileged at the expense of the poor.

    Giving the House Chaplain the power to preach politics to that body makes him the 436th member and unelected at that. What’s next, allow the Sergeant at Arms to handout leaflets?

    1. “benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

      The horror!

      1. If the Chaplain wants to have the privilege of making a political statement on the floor of the House, then he needs to run for political office just like the other 435 members. If you disagree with that, then explain why.

        1. Jesuits were explicitly debarred from running for public office in 1980. I think the proscription applies to clergy generally.

          1. Was it The Pope who barred clergy from running for public office?

            1. Yes it was. There was a direct order from the Holy See to Robert Drinan and Robert Cornell to stand down.

          2. I think the proscription applies to clergy generally.

            What evidence do you have to support that? Perhaps the clergy generally are far too principled to enter politics. Maybe they believe their benefit to society is from the pulpit.

            1. There’s nothing that prevents you from consulting the Code of Canon Law if you’re that interested. There may also be supplementary documents from the Sacred Congregation for Clergy.

              1. Why would I need to look up the Code of Canon Law regarding what is or is not proscribed for Protestant clergy? Or to be more clear; what does the Code of Canon Law have to do with non-Catholic clergy?

                1. Nothing. The discussion concerned the Society of Jesus and specific instructions from the Pope to Robert Drinan and Robert Cornell. ‘Generally’ refers to diocesan priests and priests in orders other than the Jesuits.

            2. Olly, that was the Reverend Wright’s take when Obama threw him under the bus. Arguably the Rev helped more people in Chicago than Obama ever did. Father Pfleger is another unsung hero in that town.

              1. I suspect you know (we know) of their exploits because they’ve mixed their religion with politics. None of which seems to have had any positive impact on the gun violence tormenting that city.

                1. Olly, Both were very much involved on a local level – aside from parochial duties running programs to help their community – jobs training, mentoring so some of those kids were exposed to professionals, addressing addicts/prostitutes, literacy classes, etc.

                  Only a super hero would be able to rid Chitown of the guns. =)

  6. As Mike A. said, no one knows who the House Chaplain is. The status of the House Chaplain interests me about as much as the status of the House Janitor. It’s only a media story because it’s a Republican firing and Catholics tend to vote Democratic.

    1. Catholics tend to vote Democratic.

      Nominal Catholics vote Democratic. Among Catholics who show up at Mass, Republicans have an advantage, just not the insuperable one they have among evangelicals.

      1. You know nothing about living the Catholic ethos. You show us as such daily on these forums with your comments

        1. You know nothing about living the Catholic ethos.

          Whether I do or not, Catholics who show up at mass tend to vote Republican.

          And, no, I won’t take instruction from you.

        1. Depends on the diocese. Haven’t seen any data in about a dozen years. At that time, about 20 million attended Mass each week.

          1. About 40% of Catholics regularly attend church according to Gallup. There are 70 Million Catholics so about 28 million attend Mass regularly.

              1. No, the survey research would compare self-identified Catholics with those identifying themselves as having been at Mass.

  7. I am one who shares James Madison’s view that a system of paid government chaplains violates the Establishment Clause.

    You’re a knucklehead. The 1st Congress hired a chaplain.

    The Society of Jesus has been a thorn in the side of princes and popes for centuries.

    That was then. As we speak, it’s charism has been reduced to a fondness for single-malt scotch and sodomy.

    1. When you attack what others write, it reflects poorly on you and everything you write.

        1. Christians are not called to be doormats but certainly called to evangelize, minister and grow the Faith, all the while exhibitng Charity. Given that none of your posts ever show scant evidence of the aforementioned, you were called out by Chris, and many before him, for what you do on these forums…. lack charity

          “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
          It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13

          1. Christians are not called to be doormats but certainly called to evangelize, minister and grow the Faith, all the while exhibitng Charity. Given that none of your posts ever show scant evidence of the aforementioned, you were called out by Chris, and many before him, for what you do on these forums…. lack charity

            That’s nice. Charity is not fantasy and invocations of charity in discussions like this usually means the invoker is engaged in avoidance or lying.

            The Society of Jesus is shot through with bon-vivant homosexuals who have no time for promoting the metaphysical or moral teachings of the Church. Like the other religious orders, they’ve undergone a demographic collapse in the last 50 years, so there will be only about 1,000 of them to stink up whatever’s left of the Church in North America in a generation. The Jesuit currently disgracing the Chair of Peter differs from rank-and-file Jesuits in that he has a deficit of academic achievement and no known history of sexual misconduct.

            Bad times for the Church as an institution. Not much to be done about that bar what you can do with your own hands.

          2. Paul:

            I’ll take truth, well-grounded opinion and rational thought over charity everytime. Your term “charity” is my word for “enabling.”

            1. There is nothing the matter with charity. The problem in Catholic discourses is that invoking it can be a rhetorical strategy. Rummage through Margaret Steinfels advocacy on behalf of Rembert Weakland, and I’ll wager you’ll find it invoked repeatedly. Weakland was a catastrophe, but he was her idea of a great bishop.

          3. ” … Christians are not called to be doormats.”


            Sure they are:

            “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well;and if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.”

            Matt. 5:39-41 (KJV)

            Sounds pretty door matty to me.

  8. Paul Ryan, is having “ buyers remorse “ He threw his lot in with the Orange One and it has blown up in all of their faces. The Republican Party are destroyed. John McCain, Flake and one or two more, have the
    courage of their convictions, the others are all into the swamp that they wholeheartedly embraced.

    Paul, just let his guard down the day he threw the Chaplain out. It’s called frustration. Pity he doesn’t try it
    on the person who deserves it….the LIAR IN CHIEF. !

    1. The Republican Party are destroyed. J

      Their position in state legislatures is at a 90 year high, they hold most of the governor’s chairs, they’ve held the House of Representatives for 19 of the last 23 years, and they’ve held the Senate for most of that time as well. No matter how much ‘wildbill’ trash talks, your chances of taking Congress in the fall are less than even. Most of us can put up with this level of ‘destruction’.

    2. Guiness – McCain is dying. Jeff Flake did not have the support of the people of Arizona so had to decide not to run for re-election to the Senate (he could not raise enough money to run in the primary).

      1. wildbill99 – what makes McCain think he is important enough that either Trump or Pence would consider coming to his funeral?

        1. He’s a member of Congress of 35 years standing and twice a consequential presidential candidate.

          1. DSS – McCain has been a leading #NeverTrumper and thorn in the side of Trump since his election. If I were President, I would send no one.

        2. Sarc? Certainly Trump won’t be there, no one wants him there. But practically the entire Senate will be, as well as George Bush and Barrack Obama to deliver eulogies. I expect Pence to show up but I’m not certain of that.

          1. They’ll be there as a courtesy. McCain was widely disliked due to personality problems. He has his partisans, of course, people very fond of him (including the 1st Mrs. McCain).

    3. Good on the Donald for imploding the Republicans and outing the corrupt Democrats. when the dust clears maybe we’ll have a decent candidate for 2020- Tulsi Gabbard would be my pick.

      1. Nancy Pelosi will push her down a flight of stairs and then an elevator shaft. The Left will mark the monent as a Sacrament

        1. Ignatius – Pelosi barely has the strength to walk upright these days unaided. =) But yah – the Dims would get rid of her if they could – she’s already stated she’s not afraid of the Clintons and is still alive so there is that.

  9. Since the Cat O Lics have a right to put a preacher in Congress to preach to the evangelicals and other nitwits then I want a chaplain from the 8th Day Dog Adventists. God put Dog on Earth on the 8th Day to give guidance to humans. We need a Dog in Congress to preach to these nitwits. So sayeth the Lard on Sunday. Krisco will say it on Monday. And that is today.

    1. There is a new Freethought caucus. Most candidates thought they could not win unless they advocated for religion, however the new group will advocate for freedom to think however a person chooses. No favoritism for religionists and no condemnation of normal folks.

    2. A Cat O Lic preacher needs to be very open to other religions if he is going to preach in Congress.

  10. Mike Appleton wrote, “His Evangelical Advisory Board is largely comprised of purveyors of prosperity theology and Christian dominionism . . . Paula White, a member of the board . . . has proclaimed that Mr. Trump was “raised up by God.”

    Well, at least Ms. White didn’t proclaim Trump to be a Prophet of Israel. Who would believe Trump’s Tweets were holy scriptures? Wait. Don’t answer that. Come to think of it, Mr. Smith should probably strike the entire post before Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board catches wind of the idea of proclaiming Trump to be a Prophet of Israel while codifying his infamous remark about shithole countries as The Word of God.

    Would you believe . . .

  11. Opposition to chaplains is a misunderstanding of the Establishment Clause.

  12. Paul Ryan or Rand Paul?

    Paul Ryan is an American hatin Commie Nazi Fascist piece of Trash!

    BTW: I’m not a Catholic more a Baptist/Pentecostal/JW/+++++ Christian mix.

    But as a friendly suggestion if the Catholic Religion wishes to exist as a on going entity they must stop their priest from raping lil boys & girls & allow them to marry.

    What the hell are you people thinking, that you’re like Islamist Lunatics raping kids?

    Look, don’t be a snowflake, I’m write this not to be hateful but in hopes people read this & act to Fix the Problem.

    1. More nuttery from Oky1, spreader of the gospel of Alex Jones and other absurdities.

    2. Tinfoil sale down to the piggly-wiggly this weekend.

      this is to “you know, molars CAN be bugged by the CIA” okie

  13. I do not remember St. Ignatius Loyola saying a damn thing about the government paying for health care. And this is not anywhere in the New or Old Testament. The government got into the charity business during the Great Depression when the number of people on the welfare rolls was greater than the number that could be handled by religious charities.

    Having gone to a Jesuit university (when they were still run by Jesuits) and having my confessor tell me (in 1963) that he did not believe in the concept of hell, I can believe anything of the Jesuits. 😉 However, I am surprised one is Chaplin of the House, that sneaky devil. They really are not to be trusted. 🙂

    1. You remember everything Loyola said? You are older than I thought.


      1. David Benson – Iggy and I used to go whoring together. Never said a thing about government charity.

        1. How coincidental; neither did the House Chaplain. You’d know that if your source wasn’t Pravda Faux News.

          this is to “Doocy speaks to me in my dreams” paulie

          1. Marky Mark Mark – when I want a comment from the peanut gallery I will speak to you directly. Otherwise, butt out, nimrod.

  14. I see it in a far more simple form.

    Rand is a Republican In Name Only
    Therefore Rand is part of the right wing of he left.

    The left among other things is anti religion of any kind as it doesn’t like other control systems or groups but there own which is secularism.

    Catholicism is a particularly strong example of that and in parts of the world one of the two major theocratic governments were or are Moslem and Catholicism.

    We’ve just seen examples of the left voting down the DACA bills while claiming to support that group

    Why? Catholics are anti-abortion.

    Simple as that.

    Doesn’t matter what religion Rand claims to be he’s first and foremost a RINO. .

    Not hard at all to figure out.

    That apples to the entire leadership of the GOP

    1. I have no beef with a Chaplain per se. We had them in the military.

      St. Michael’s Day we used to make a big mass parachute drop at Fort Bragg and a multi or non take your pick service was held using stacked parachutes for an altar. St. Michael is the patron saint of Paratroops

      or was

      I guess now it’s St. Chicken Man for those who remember back that far.

    2. Where does one obtain the “apples” which refer in some way to the “entire leadership’ of the GOP”?

      this is to “you want word salad, I got word salad” mikey

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