Dietz, Peter Ernest

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DIETZ, PETER ERNEST

Labor priest, journalist; b. New York, N.Y., July 10, 1878; d. Milwaukee, Wis., Oct. 11, 1947. His father, Frederick Dietz, was a native of the Palatinate, Germany; his mother, Eva Kern Dietz, came from Bavaria. In 1900, after his early education at Holy Redeemer School, New York City, Peter entered the novitiate of the Society of the Divine Word in Moedling, Germany. Three years later he returned to the U.S. and was ordained a diocesan priest by Cardinal James Gibbons on Dec. 17, 1904.

Dietz early displayed interest in social questions; his desire to apply the principles of Leo XIII's rerum novarum was an essential part of his vocation to the priesthood. Associated with Fathers John A. ryan and William kerby, he pioneered for labor legislation, for a bishops' pastoral on the labor question, for a unification of Catholic social agencies, and for an effective Catholic press. He edited the English section of the German Catholic Central Verein's organ, Central Blatt and Social Justice, and organized the Verein's first social studies institute. As secretary of the Social Service Commission of the American Federation of Catholic Societies, he edited the Bulletin and a weekly Newsletter, which circulated among 100 Catholic and labor papers. His American Academy for Christian Democracy in Hot Springs, N.C., prepared young women for a wide range of social service. This academy, later moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, became the first labor college in the country.

Dietz defended trade unionism. He was a personal friend of labor leaders John Mitchell, Matthew Woll, and Philip Murray, whom he greatly influenced. His Militia of Christ for Social Service, an organization of Catholic trade unionists, effectively combated the influence of socialism, especially at the national conventions of the American Federation of Labor, which Dietz attended and frequently addressed from 1909 to 1922. He pioneered in setting up an industrial council plan among the building trades in Cincinnati during the 1920s.

Dietz's public career ended abruptly in 1923 when Catholic members of the Chamber of Commerce protested to Abp. J. T. McNicholas that his influence on labor had interfered with their business. Dietz, forced to close his academy at Ault Park, withdrew from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and spent the next 24 years building St. Monica's, Milwaukee, into a large and important parish.

Bibliography: a. i. abell, American Catholicism and Social Action: A Search for Social Justice, 18651950 (New York 1960). m. h. fox, Peter E. Dietz, Labor Priest (Notre Dame, Ind. 1953).

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