So...what are we to make of this? The conventional "grace" argument is that it's an act of grace to free a guilty man. If that were as far as it went, that might be true. But Al Megrahi is dying! Would we think it graceful if Scotland released him a day or a week before his death? Probably not. How about 10 years? We might more readily say yes. So is there a time horizon for release to turn to
Another problem is that we might also argue that Scotland is in no position to offer grace. Al Megrahi harmed Scotland only in the abstract. His crime occured in their airspace and only a small percentage of the victims were actually Scottish. In any case, none of the victims (or their families), released Al Megrahi. The Scottish government did. The main sqwauk is coming from the families of the victims (mostly American) and the American government. The question, I suppose, then becomes: Is there a difference between Grace and Mercy?
In that Grace is the opposite of Law, the release of Al Megrahi does seem graceful. His penalty was abrogated in favor of release. It seems a little less than merciful due to the cancer. True grace would seem to entail the release of someone fully capable of repeating his offense. I've called this blog "Thoughts on Grace." In the end, my own views on this story are a little muddled. I feel fine about releasing an aging, dying, murderer so that he can die with his familiy. I was sickened at his reception in Libya. I don't however, feel like this is a great example of Grace. It is a nod to Grace when the cost is low. The cost is basically looking bad to one's constituents.
Grace, as discussed in previous posts, is extended to sinners who are fully expected to sin again. This is the profundity of it. Grace is love that is one way; love that is not expected to be returned. I'm not sure that Al Megrahi has been shown grace. I think he has been shown compassion. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.