We are disappointed and offended by accusations in a recent Mark Shields' column "Choosing the Chaplain: A House Divided" [Dec. 1] that anti-Catholic bias affected the choice of the next House chaplain.

When the current House chaplain, the Rev. James Ford, announced his retirement earlier this year, we knew there would be many strong candidates to fill the chaplain position. So the speaker and Leader Richard Gephardt asked Reps. Tom Bliley and Earl Pomeroy to co-chair an 18-member bipartisan committee to take a close look at applicants.

Their job was to narrow the list of candidates to three and then present the three candidates to Minority Leader Gephardt and to each of us. The committee was never asked to rank the finalists. The candidates they selected, the Rev. Charles Wright, Father Tim O'Brien and the Rev. Robert Dvorak, all had strong credentials.

This fall, with Mr. Gephardt, we sat down and interviewed each candidate. Based on those interviews we felt that Dr. Wright had the best interpersonal and counseling skills and would be the best person for the job.

Mr. Shields or anyone else who would suggest that the denomination of the candidates played any role in this process is wrong. We chose the best person for the job, period. Dr. Wright's warmth and graciousness throughout the period of accusations have only reaffirmed our faith that we made the right decision.

J. DENNIS HASTERT

Speaker of the House

DICK ARMEY

Majority Leader

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington