From The Washington Post, some very good reporting on a man who has been the center of a storm of controversy this week:
During his training to be ordained, Conroy earned not only degrees in theology and philosophy but also a law degree from Saint Louis University, and in the 1980s he worked as both a lawyer and a priest for Native American communities in Washington state.
“The charge that he doesn’t know how to provide good pastoral services is absurd, because he’s been a pastor of the church many times and he’s ministered to a wide variety of people. . . . His pastoral skills are beyond reproach,” said the Rev. James Martin, a fellow Jesuit and the editor-at-large of America, a Jesuit magazine. “He had served as pastor at several parishes on Native American reservations — those are very challenging assignments.”
Conroy also spent years in chaplaincy, including three years at Seattle University and more than 10 years at Georgetown.
[Father Raymond] Kemp, who worked at Georgetown at the same time as Conroy, said he recalls being astonished that Conroy would obtain the names and photographs of incoming Catholic students from the registrar each summer. When students arrived on campus, Conroy had already memorized their names.
Even with that dedication to personal outreach, Kemp said, Conroy might still have struggled to meet the pastoral needs of the House. “He has 435 representatives. And each of those have a staff of 10 or so,” he said. “You’ve got 4,350 people. That’s a major-size parish in the United States of America.”
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) said Friday that Conroy played an important pastoral role for many members. When Connolly’s communications director, George Burke, died in 2015, he said, Conroy volunteered without having been asked to lead a memorial service, which meant a lot to grieving staffers.
Connolly described Conroy as a close follower of Francis and as a chaplain willing to tangle with lawmakers on political issues: “He is well read, and he’s quite current with current arguments within the church about, say, Pope Francis’s encyclicals and his direction for the church and some of the arguments about social justice and pro-life issues and the like. And Pat’s very well equipped to hear our points of view and be respectful of them while also offering his own take on those issues.”