Norman Hilarion Fenton, O.P. (1922-2011)

Father Norman Fenton, O.P., came to the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. in 1977 to teach philosophy. Earlier he had taught courses in philosophy at Dominican College in Racine, Wisconsin, and at the University of Dallas. Even earlier he had practiced law (rather briefly), thereafter had begun to pursue a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Chicago, embraced Roman Catholicism in 1952, and entered the Dominican Order (Central Province)  as a novice in 1955.

During World War II Fr. Fenton served in the United States Army (1942-1946), and earned the rank of Technical Sergeant. He later earned a B.A. and a law degree from Stanford University (1947 and 1949), an S.T.Lr. from the Aquinas Institute in Dubuque (1962), and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago (1969). At the Dominican House of Studies he taught courses in the history of philosophy, in metaphysics and epistemology, and in other philosophic sub-disciplines. He was an editor of The Thomist and published a number of reviews in that journal. His special philosophic concern was to nourish in his own mind and communicate to others a full-bodied realism in the Thomistic tradition. After spending many years in Washington he decided to transfiliate to the Eastern Province in 1992. Fr. Fenton was loved and appreciated by his family and his brethren, his many students, and the men and women he served in the Dominican Third Order, the Teams of our Lady, and the Aquinas Circles. An obituary has been published in the Columbus Dispatch.

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace, Amen.

An excerpt from the final lines of a review Fr. Fenton published in The Thomist 40 (1976) 484-87.


Review of: Actualitas Omnium Actuum: Man’s Beatific Vision of God as Apprehended by Thomas Aquinas. By William J. Hoye. Meisenheim am Glan: Verlag Anton Hain, 1975. Pp. 363. 79 DM.

…..Having said unpleasant things after laudatory things, I should like to sandwich the unpleasant things between kind things by concluding on a favorable note. Hoye’s book does importantly advance the purpose which he intended it to fulfill: the total exploration of the implications of ” existential ” Thomism with respect to man’s eternal happiness. If he fails to accomplish this purpose in a definitive and magisterial way, if there are serious flaws in his thinking and in his exegesis of Aquinas, his book will nonetheless be a stimulus, an opulent treasury of relevant materials, a comprehensive first draft, as it were, for others who may devote themselves to the same undertaking. And, if he exaggerates the continuity between this life and the next, he at least gives us a Scylla to complement the Charybdis of so many eschatologists.

Norman E. Fenton, O. P.
Dominican House of Studies
Washington, D. C.

And a touch of Fr. Fenton’s humor, from his book on Leibniz (A New Interpretation of Leibniz’s Philosophy: With Emphasis on His Theory of Space, 1973): From the Preface–…..”In deference to tradition I ought to thank my wife for her proofreading and longsuffering. But I cannot do so; she has not helped me at all. In fact, she does not even exist. Since it is my commitment to the Dominican Order which precludes the married state, I express my appreciation for the assistance and moral support which have been generously forthcoming from fellow-Dominicans.”