The brouhaha unleashed when Speaker Paul Ryan cashiered the House chaplain for an allegedly “political” prayer last year just took a new, and weird, turn. A major conservative leader who serves on the committee to choose a successor to the Rev. Patrick Conroy, SJ, laid out his desiderata for a chaplain, and it’s a mite exclusive, as The Hill reports:
“I’m looking for somebody who has a little age, that has adult children, that kind of can connect with the bulk of the body here, Republicans and Democrats who are going through, back home the wife, the family … that has some counseling experience … because what’s needed in the body here is people who can sit down with different members, male, female, Democrat, Republican, and just talk about what it is kind of to be up here,” Walker, a Southern Baptist minister and chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, told reporters Thursday.
Sure would seem to rule out celibate Catholic priests, and maybe women, given Walker’s multiple references to needing someone who knows how to deal with “the wife” (I think it’s safe to say Walker’s not interested in a woman in a same-sex marriage as a chaplain). Even in trying to disclaim any motive to discriminate, Walker seemed to confirm it:
“I don’t think just because you are of that particular strain of faith, that prevents you from doing it. That doesn’t mean [a Catholic] can’t minister people,” Walker continued.
“But when you walk the journey of having a kid back home that’s struggling or made some bad decisions, or when you have a separation situation or your wife’s not understanding the [congressional] schedule, having somebody who’s walked in those shoes allows you to immediately relate a little bit more than others.”
Walker is getting perilously close to the old anti-Catholic jibe about the celibate priesthood not being entitled to “make the rules when they aren’t playing the game.” It’s really unclear why he and his colleagues don’t just pick somebody and suggest the chaplaincy should be rotated among all different kinds of clergy. If it didn’t occur to him that his comments would offend people — and not just “politically correct” types, but a lot of conservatives, too — he really needs to get out more.