History of Devil's Advocates

The history of Devil's Advocates dates back to 1587, when the Catholic Church, under the reign of Pope Sixtus V, appointed a canon lawyer to argue against a papal nominee. It was the responsibility of the Devil's Advocate (advocatus diaboli) to take a skeptical view of the candidate's character, to look for holes in the evidence, and to argue that any miracles attributed to the candidate were fraudulent. In 1631, Pope Urban VIII made the Devil's Advocate necessary, at least by deputy, for the validity of any act connected with the process of beatification or canonization.

Pope John Paul II abolished the office of Devil's Advocate in 1983, after it had been in place for nearly four hundred years. This reform of the canonization process ushered in an unprecedented number of elevations: nearly 500 individuals were canonized (and over 1,300 were beatified) during Pope John Paul's tenure as compared to only 98 canonizations by all his 20th-century predecessors.