NY PriestIn the wake of devastating sex scandals, the Catholic priesthood is looking for some “real men” to fill its ranks.

The archdiocese of New York has launched a recruiting web site, NYPriest.com, that stresses the manly aspects of the priesthood. It shows priests rushing courageously into battles, car wrecks and other zones of human suffering. The campaign’s slogan reads: THE WORLD NEEDS HEROES.

The Catholic church is finding it very difficult to recruit men to the priesthood. It’s not just the vows of poverty and chastity that frighten young men. There’s a perception that priests are at best, effeminate, and at worst, sexual predators. As a result, heterosexual men who might consider a vocation are dismissing the priesthood without a second thought.

NYPriest.com is an effort to re-cast the image of priests. While the site does not directly address the issue of homosexuality in the ranks, every priest portrayed on the site is sufficiently masculine. They talk like regular guys. Several mention their love for sports (the Yankees, of course). Two videos on the site are set to stirring music that reminds one of the film “Braveheart.”

Two lessons we can draw from this. First, even a tradition-bound organization like the Catholic church is coming to realize the importance of masculine context when reaching out to men. When the church speaks of sacrifice, heroism and honor, men respond. (See Matthew 10) And men are drawn to leaders who are confident in their manhood.

Second, I believe this campaign reflects a genuine desire in the archdiocese to reconnect with men in the pews. These leaders realize that heterosexual priests will have an easier time earning the respect of male parishioners.