Too Catholic for Malta?

Malta is 98 percent Catholic, making it one of the most Catholic countries in the world. A reader sent along a link to a story about the United States ambassador to Malta getting into trouble with the State Department Inspector General. Here's how the Associated Press put it:

The report by the department's inspector general rebuked Douglas Kmiec for spending too much time writing and speaking about subjects such as abortion and his religious beliefs, while neglecting ambassadorial duties. Kmiec was a well-known conservative law professor and commentator before being appointed ambassador in 2009.

The only problem, as Jack Smith at the Catholic Key blog noted, is that this is not what the report actually said. The report does not say that he spent too much time writing and speaking about "abortion and his religious beliefs." You can read it here. The word abortion only appears in the report once and it doesn't have anything to do with Kmiec. And it doesn't say that he spent too much time advancing his own religious beliefs but that he believed he'd been given a special mandate to promote interfaith objectives. The report basically says that Kmiec has achieved some policy successes and is respected by Maltese officials but:

[H]is unconventional approach to his role as ambassador has created friction with principal officials in Washington, especially over his reluctance to accept their guidance and instructions. Based on a belief that he was given a special mandate to promote President Obama’s interfaith initiatives, he has devoted consider­ able time to writing articles for publication in the United States as well as in Malta, and to presenting his views on subjects outside the bilateral portfolio. He has been inconsistent in observance of clearance procedures required for publication. He also looks well beyond the bilateral relationship when considering possible events for the mission to host in Malta. His approach has required Department principals, as well as some embassy staff, to spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing his writings, speeches, and other initiatives. His official schedule has been uncharacteristically light for an ambassador at a post of this size, and on average he spends several hours of each work day in the residence, much of which appears to be devoted to his non­ official writings.

It goes on to say that he has not focused on management of the embassy and doesn't meet enough with government officials outside of social events. It also says that Kmiec had told the IG that he was going to discontinue his extracurricular writings and focus on embassy management but that within weeks, he resumed drafting public essays. This outside work took much time, according to the IG, from embassy staff members who had to review and edit and get approvals for the writings.

The original Associated Press story also claimed that Kmiec had challenged President Obama in a Maltese newspaper on the subject of abortion. That's not true either. Kmiec is pro-life, but he's a huge Obama supporter and wrote a book encouraging Catholics to support the pro-abortion-rights candidate. He didn't challenge Obama in a foreign newspaper.

Later reports are much improved, including Kmiec's response to the IG report (which he apparently says is about his religious views) such as here:

Kmiec said the criticism of his outspoken religious views was "especially odd" because his friendship with Obama began out of a common view that "too much of politics had been used to divide us, sometimes by excluding people of faith." Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University and a lawyer in President Ronald Reagan's administration, was targeted by conservative Catholics and denied Communion by one priest for his support for Obama during the presidential campaign.

Kmiec, 59, said his work was part of Obama's efforts to promote understanding among different religions, and that he'll stay on as ambassador as long as he has the president's confidence.

I should note that CNN's Belief blog had a more accurate lede about what the IG report said. Now, I wouldn't be surprised if there's much more to this story, whether it's about hostility toward religious adherents in the State Department or political intrigue on a larger level or something. So please let me know if anyone figures out the real story behind Malta's too-Catholic ambassador.

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