Scully lecture details personal experience in Chile
By MARIBEL MOREY
Assistant News Editor
The three fans circulating the damp warm air throughout the exceedingly heated Montgomery Theatre in LaFortune resembled a South American climate more than South Bend in the middle of winter. Safely nestled away within an American campus, 20 people gathered and listened to Father Timothy Scully, executive vice president and government professor, speak on Thursday night on how his interest in Chile was cultivated.
Upon graduation from Notre Dame, Scully was recommended by the Holy Cross Order to go to Chile. He arrived in September of 1979. "I didn't speak Spanish, and I didn't know quite what Chile was," Scully said.
"I found that I was in a world that was strange to me — strange in that it was unhappy because of its political regime," he said.
Shortly upon arriving at Santiago, Scully noticed that a member of the religious order had been invited to a formal event where Pinochet was going to be present. "I had been in Chile for 5 days, We [Pinochet and I] had a two-minute exchange — I wanted to watch him and see what this person's like," he said.
After two and a half years, Scully moved to a shanty town in Chile at which point he continued to see the blatant abuse of human rights. "I saw the poor getting the living crack out of them," he said. "I saw women's genitalia burnt and mangled, poverty and unemployment. I saw firsthand the effects of this democracy."
However, he later emphasizes that neither the poor nor the rich should be romanticized.
Together as a political and religious state, the Chilean people take national politics very seriously. "As sports is to the Notre Dame campus, politics is to Chile," he said. You are not friends nor you date outside of your political party. Politics is also engraved within families. "You tell me your last name and I can tell you immediately what party you are," Scully said.
As an American in Chile, Scully feels that his experience is not the same as other Chileans. "I was seen as someone apart — white, gringo, I was treated somewhat special," Scully said.
He went downtown one day to watch a riot when a police officer in uniform came up to him and asked him what he was doing there. Scully told a white lie and said he was waiting for a friend and he himself was lost. For the rest of the riot, the officer served as Scully's own bodyguard by shielding him from head-to-toe. Once the riot was over, Scully thanked the officer who then said, "That's what we're here for."
Scully was amazed, "They're [The military] beating the living shit out of their own people and he says `that's what we're here for' — to protect the North American."
The role of the Church within these social injustices is different than the role of the Church in the United States. "The Church I grew up in is not a Church I associated with other than trying to [help Irish] make it in America. The Church was an institution that promoted us [Irish]," he said.
As Scully saw, the vast majority of the Chilean culture is Catholic, including Pinochet himself, and from 1973 onward, the Church was the only coherent organization protecting human rights. By protecting the poor, and " in a political sense, the Church chose against its institutional interests," he said.
The Church became a target of the Right. "The Right saw those nuns and me in a sort of way as communists — naive troublesome communists amidst a real struggle," he said. "They viewed advocates of human rights and leftist folks as the enemy in a world-wide struggle against communism."
Before going to Chile, theology for Scully had been an academic subject attempting to untie the problems of the mysteries of God — who and what is God, he said.
In the new concept of Liberation theology, it is said that "God actually takes sides — God is the God of the poor," said Scully.
At this point in Scully's life, he became passionate about democracy in Chile.
With this new interest, Scully wrote a small book on the appropriate role of the Church in politics. Within this work he wrote that "torture in general was against the Catholic social teaching." This was enough for the police to strip him of his visa. It was replaced with a visa that required him to visit the police headquarters every two months to speak to a police agent about his life. "At this point I thought I needed to get out," he said.
However, he still returns to Chile every year. The United Nations sponsored two of these visits to take part in the reform of the law after General Pinochet's rule. "The laws that Pinochet left were so biased towards the Right and the governing body," Scully said.
Having researched Chile since his first visit in 1979, Scully is cautious of taking either side in the Chilean struggle. "I see life as so complex. Some movies, like Romero, portray the Right as so evil and the poor as so absolutely virtuous and I just don't think it's like that."
All News Stories for Friday, February 9, 2001