I suspect he did. Benedict is not stupid, and he’s not unsavvy about media; he knows the press is reactionary and slavish to the sensational – that they would grab his answers to Peter Seewald and run with them, and that after their first noise, some of them would actually settle down and seek to understand, while others never would.
Meanwhile, the faithful would be jarred from their torpor, and others–who had been dismissive of all-positions-Catholic–would again be engaged.
Active engagement is always better than passive dismissal.
I think the pope absolutely knew what he was doing, and that he meant to get people to sit up, to pay attention to Catholicism, again, in terms of doctrine, dogma and reason – to recall the church as something more than a scandal-ridden center of sensationalism.
For the past few years the stories in the press have been almost exclusively about scandal and pain and negatives. Suddenly, there is engagement and focus on something else, something that is eternally more definitive of the church, and which we will still be discussing long after (God willing) our deep wounds have finally begun to scab over and scar, signifying injuries healed, but not forgotten.
In some translations of John 5 we read of the pool of water at the Sheeps Gate, and how an angel would come down, from time to time, to stir the waters; after the waters were stirred, there would be healing.
I’d say the waters are stirred, right now.
As Deacon Greg emailed me in discussion:
He’s a professor, a teacher, and he’s challenging his students to think, argue, debate, discuss — and he’s drawing theologians into a wider debate that will ultimately, I suppose, lead to a more definitive statement. He understands that the thinking of the Church can and does change (though the teaching mostly doesn’t).
It’s similar to what he did with canon law last year (another bombshell that went largely unnoticed.) He inserted a paragraph into the section on ordination, declaring that priests are configured to Christ, and deacons are configured to the people of God. Which means, of course, implicitly that priests thus can only be men…but deacons? Not so much. And people are parsing and picking THAT apart, too.