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Pelosi’s Questions About Chaplain’s Past Satisfied

The approval of the next House chaplain seemed to get back on track Wednesday after the chamber’s top Democrat further reviewed the work history of the Catholic priest nominated for the position.

Roll Call reported Wednesday that the Rev. Patrick Conroy belonged to a Jesuit order that was ordered to pay $166 million to victims of sexual abuse, prompting some Members to want to know more about Conroy’s work before voting on him.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, who is Catholic, said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) brought up her concerns about the settlement with him Wednesday. He said he wanted to see what she has to say before making any decisions.

“I just want to review the record a little more,” the Texas Democrat said. “I’m not saying I have a problem with him. It just gives me a pause.”

But late Wednesday, Pelosi’s office said she was satisfied with the chaplain pick moving forward.

“Father Conroy has responded to additional questions posed to him,” spokesman Drew Hammill said. “Based on his answers, the leader sees no obstacle to his being named chaplain.”

Pelosi’s office said Tuesday she was not aware of the settlement by the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus when she first agreed to support Speaker John Boehner’s decision. On Wednesday, they charged that the Ohio Republican’s office was not aware of the settlement either when it nominated Conroy.

“Since the initial review of the materials on Fr. Conroy’s candidacy, additional information has arisen that neither Mr. Boehner’s office or our office had,” Hammill said in an email.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel did not dispute the claim.

Conroy is a member of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, a Pacific Northwest Jesuit group that in March was ordered to pay $166 million to more than 400 victims of sexual abuse by its priests in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Conroy was not accused of any sexual abuse, according to law firms involved in the case, and he reportedly wrote a letter to an archbishop in 1986 to report a Roman Catholic priest he believed to have molested a boy years earlier.

Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, the only Catholic Member from the five states where the sexual abuse occurred, said he expects Conroy’s past to be “thoroughly examined.”

“Was he in a supervisory capacity? What should he have, did he know? All those questions, I’m sure they’ll all come out,” the Democrat said.

Rep. Tim Walberg, who was a Protestant pastor for almost 10 years, said he too wants to be sure Conroy’s record is examined.

“I think it’s an important position in the House, it has a great impact. I want to make sure we have the best person set up to do the job without any unnecessary baggage,” the Michigan Republican said.

Reps. Jim Moran and Gerry Connolly, both Catholic Virginia Democrats, said they don’t want to punish Conroy because of the deeds of his peers.