Rev. Msgr. Eugene Kevane – In Memoriam (E. Friedman OCD)

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Msgr. Eugene Kevane visited Mount Carmel in the seventies giving me the opportunity of explaining to him my reading of the signs of the times. He was, by the way, a good listener. What impressed him most, I believe, was my view that the present apostasy afflicting Christendom was actually the Apostasy of the Gentiles predicted by the Bible, an idea which had already occurred to him.

Back in the States he persuaded Dr. Ronda Chervin and David Moss to take up my ideas and launch the Association of Hebrew Catholics (AHC). They were his associates in his campaign for the defense of Orthodox Catholic teachings – in catechetics, which he saw undermined by “progressive” priests and laity. For me he was a man sent by God, to help translate my ideas into practice.

On reading his book, The Lord of History, I was frankly amazed to find how far our views on the reading of the signs of the times were identical. I remember saying to myself: How I would have liked to have been the author of this book. In it Kevane begins by discussing the notion of history as it was formulated by the Greek historians (e.g. Herodotus, Thucydides) and then by the Romans e.g.; Polybius. In the fourth chapter he treats of the way the Fathers of the Church, S. Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Augustine, understood the “order of succession” of historical events. For them the shape of history was determined by God’s plan of salvation revealed to men by the prophets and finally by Jesus Christ, Redeemer of mankind and Lord of History. By illuminating past and future, Jesus Christ stands at the center of human time.

This Christian view of history was now contested by Petrarch’s tripartite division of events into three periods, the Classical (Greece and Rome), the Medieval and the Modern. In this division Jesus Christ is displaced from his central position in the drama of humanity. Petrarch’s system linked up with modern philosophy which, starting with Descartes, passes through thinkers like Spinoza, Voltaire, Comte, Nietzsche Hegel, Marx, to name the most important players, to end up in the atheistic humanism which dominates the mind of modern man.

In the seventh chapter, Kevane denounces “modernity” as an apostasy from God, as “a great revolt against God the Creator, God the Redeemer and God the Sanctifier of mankind” and, “very possibly, as The Great Apostasy” (p. 94).

But the Petrachan division of history is crumbling, eroded by the discovery of civilizations much older than that of the Greeks or the Romans, such as the Sumerians, the Egyptians, the Akkadians and the more remote prehistoric cultures. Physical science with its theory of the “Big Bang” origin of the universe, has given the dogma of the Creation a new credibility. The science of Genetics, founded by an Augustinian monk, George Mendel, has revealed the ignorance of Darwin and the weakness of his theory of Natural Selection. Natural Selection may explain the rise of taxonomic species but does not explain, indeed it presumes, the existence of natural species. Evolution or the Transformation of the species is not in question here, but how it works.

These changes in intellectual perspective have introduced us into the Post-Modern era, where Christian philosophers like Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson could attempt to reinstate the value of the perennial philosophy as taught by the Church. More particularly, Kevane recognizes a Christian philosophy of history which restores Jesus Christ to his central position as Lord of History and reduces “modernity” to an aberration of human thought doomed to pass away.

The present writer would like to add a point or two to Kevane’s magnum opus, by distinguishing between history, what has happened, historiography, narrating what has happened, and historiosophy giving meaning to what happens. What Kevane calls the philosophy of history, he would call a Christian historiosophy. In his Jewish Identity he also defines a sign of the times as an historical event or person put in relation to the plan of salvation. In addition, the present writer deals with the Return of the Jews to their ancient homeland after two thousand years of exile, precisely at the time of the Apostasy of the Gentiles of erstwhile Christendom. He explains the connection between the two and confirms Jesus Christ as the center of history.

Kevane’s book is a magnificent study of a subject foreign to the education of most priests. Academically, it is perfect in its presentation of a recondite subject, the philosophy or theology of history. Its style is distinguished by a clarity without shadows. In particular the way Kevane has isolated “modernity” for critical analysis is a tribute to his intellectual originality.

In the opinion of the present writer, Kevane’s book should be looked upon as obligatory reading for members of the AHC desirous of studying the intellectual foundations of the movement. He would wish Kevane’s book to be more generally read and its value more generally appreciated.

  • You are my witnesses (Is. 43:10)  •  You shall be my witnesses (Acts 1:8)