Fichter, Joseph H.

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Sociologist; b. Union City, NJ, June 10, 1908, d. New Orleans, LA, Feb. 23, 1994. In 1930 Fichter entered the New Orleans province of the Society of Jesus and was ordained a priest in 1942. He received his B.A. (1935) and M.A. (1939) from St. Louis University and a doctorate in sociology from Harvard University in 1947. Fichter spent most of his academic career teaching sociology at Loyola University in New Orleans, and also held the following academic appointments: Fulbright Professor, University of Muenster, Germany (195354); Visiting Professor, University of Notre Dame (195556); Fulbright Professor, Universidad Catolica de Chile (196061); Professor and Research Director, University of Chicago (196465); Chauncey Stillman Chair at Harvard University (196570); Professor, State University of New York at Albany (197172); and Favrot Chair of Human Relations, Tulane University (197374).

Joseph Fichter's research record includes 30 books and over 200 articles. The bulk of his work focused on aspects of Catholicism, including Southern Parish (1951), Social Relations in the Urban Parish (1954), Parochial School (1958), Priest and People (1965), America's Forgotten Priests (1968), Rehabilitation of Clergy Alcoholics (1982), The Pastoral Provisions: Married Catholic Priests (1989), Wives of Catholic Clergy (1992). Other books covered topics such as religion as an occupation, pain and healing, the Catholic Cult of the Paraclete, and the Unification Church. His sociological autobiography was published in two volumes: One Man Research (1973) and The Sociology of Good Works (1993).

Fichter was active in promoting social justice issues. In the 1930s he both defended organized labor and criticized corrupt union leadership, advocating the organization of white collar workers and pleading for more humane treatment of Mexican migrant laborers. In the 1940s he quietly achieved the first desegregation of Catholic colleges in the Deep South. In the early 1950s he developed a strategy to desegregate the entire New Orleans' Archdiocesan school system. In the 50s he wrote that reputed differences between the sexes was cultural in origin, and in 1966 he advocated the ordination of women in the Catholic Church.

Fichter served as president for the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Southern Sociological Society, and as a member of the executive council of the American Sociological Association. In recognition of his stature in the field, the Association for the Sociology of Religion created the annual Fichter Research Award.

Bibliography: j.h. fichter, One Man Research: Reminiscences of a Catholic Sociologist (New York 1973); The Sociology of Good Works: Research in Catholic America (Chicago 1993). j. hadden and t. long, eds., Religion and Religiosity in America: Studies in Honor of Joseph H. Fichter (New York 1983).

[r.a. wallace]