[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Herald. It reads in part:]
The leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland is facing criticism after he attacked America’s “culture of vengeance” and defended the decision to release the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing on compassionate grounds.
In a dramatic intervention into the furious row over the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, Cardinal Keith O’Brien said that Americans should assess their own judicial decisions before criticising those of other countries.
He compared America to Iran and Saudi Arabia because of its use of the death penalty, and defended Scottish officials’ decision to refuse to appear before American senators investigating the circumstances of the release. Scottish politicians should not go “crawling” to America, he said.
A spokesman for Senator Robert Menendez, the New Jersey senator heading the investigation into Megrahi’s release, last night declined to comment, but Frank Duggan, spokesman for the Victims of Pan Am 103 group, criticised the Cardinal’s intervention.
He said: “I’m a Catholic and we know that the Catholic Church has long opposed the death penalty.
“But I think the bishop here should stick to his knitting, and render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” (...)
Experts said yesterday that the calculation should have taken into account further treatment for the Libyan’s prostate cancer. Medics who made the prediction should have recognised that planned chemotherapy would extend his life, according to a group of doctors.
One of them, Professor Roger Kirby, director of the Prostate Centre in London, said that the Scottish Government had made a mistake because it did not “ask the right questions to the right people”.
But a Government spokesman said that Dr Andrew Fraser, Director of Health and Care for the Scottish Prison Service, who provided the clinical assessment of Megrahi’s condition for Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, was “a professional of unimpeachable integrity”.
He added: “Dr Fraser drew on expert advice from a number of cancer specialists in coming to his clinical assessment that a three-month prognosis was a reasonable estimate for Megrahi – it was not based on the opinion of any one doctor. These specialists included two consultant oncologists, two consultant urologists and a number of other specialists, including a palliative care team, and Mr Megrahi’s primary care physician.”
Last night Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the tragedy, said America was too keen to “kick ass” without asking if they had got the right man, and said he was glad Megrahi had never faced the death penalty.
Dr Swire said that he agreed with the Cardinal’s comments.
“We should look for justice rather than vengeance,” he said. “I agree with him in criticising that culture.
“American culture is bordering on the search for vengeance and the desire to kick ass, without asking if it is the right ass to kick.
“We have always said that we need to know the truth and would like to extract something good from this, and vengeance is a disgraceful way for a self-confessed Christian nation to behave.”
“What about the question of whether Megrahi is guilty or not?” he added.
However, he said he was not criticising the American relatives of Lockerbie victims and that it would be wrong to say they belonged to that culture.
Dr Swire also revealed that he had written a letter to the Cardinal praising him for speaking out but warning him that with such comments “you have to expect flak, unfortunately”.
Mr MacAskill, who made the decision to release Megrahi, described the Cardinal’s comments as “considered” and “thoughtful”.
[The Scotsman's report on the issue can be read here.]