Hill, William Joseph

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Dominican theologian and editor; b. North Attleboro, Mass., March 30, 1924; d. Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2001. Hill was the oldest of seven children of William and Rita (Lanteigne) Hill. He entered the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) in 1943 and graduated from Providence College in 1945. After being ordained a priest in 1950, he was sent to Rome to study at the Angelicum, from which he received an S. T. D. in 1952. On returning to the United States he began teaching at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. where he was professor of theology until 1971. The Dominican Order named him a Master of Theology (S. T. M.) in 1967. From 1971 to 1987 he was professor of systematic theology at the Catholic University of America, and from 1987 until his death, professor emeritus. His publications include five books and 44 articles. Hill also was known for his editorial work, serving as editor-in-chief of The Thomist for nine years (19751983), and on the editorial boards for The New Catholic Encyclopedia, Communio, and Listening. In 197980, he was president of the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA), which in 1983 awarded him the John Courtney Murray Award for Outstanding Achievement in Theology. From 19821985 he served on the bilateral consultations between Roman Catholics and officials of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches.

Convinced that Thomism was a living tradition, Hill was best known for his original contributions to trinitarian theology and his creative retrieval of the insights of Thomas Aquinas in dialogue with contemporary culture and diverse theological perspectives. Of particular note are his work on analogy, his efforts to incorporate history and subjectivity into a contemporary theology of God, his original retrieval of an understanding of the Trinity as "Three-Personed God," and his contributions to foundational theology and the theology of preaching. Even in his most speculative reflection on the mystery of innertrinitarian relations, Hill stressed the salvific significance of doctrine. Likewise, Hill's theology of preaching exemplified the kind of pastoral theology that brings serious and sustained systematic reflection to bear on the ministry of the Church. Referring to the theological task as a ministry of the Word, Hill described the vocation of the theologian in a homily he preached to his colleagues in the Catholic Theological Society of America as "the attempt to show who God will be for us and what humankind must be for God" ("The Theologian: On Pilgrimage with Christ," CTSA Proceedings 40 [1985] 230232).

Bibliography: w. j. hill, The Indwelling Trinity (Somerset, Ohio 1954); Theological Hope, v. 33 of the Blackfriars New English Summa theologiae (translation, critical notes, and commentary) (New York 1966); Knowing the Unknown God: An Essay in Theological Epistemology (New York 1971); The Three-Personed God: The Trinity as a Mystery of Salvation (Washington, D.C.1982); Search for the Absent God: Tradition and Modernity in Religious Understanding (New York 1992).

[m. c. hilkert]