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Case in point | Playing devil’s advocate

The removal of the devil's advocate from the canonisation system has led to the creation of an unprecedented number of saints. So is there a role for satanic lawyering in the church, asks Richard Easton

8 August 2013

The Vatican's announcement in July that Pope John Paul II is to be sainted marks the whirring into action of one of the world's oldest legal systems - the Holy See's canon law. For canonisation is at once a theological and legal event, the culmination of a juridical process heavily regulated by the apostilic constitution. There is, however, a figure absent from the intricate legalities behind John Paul II's imminent sainthood, a figure now relegated to the status of cliché: the devil's advocate.

The advocatus diaboli was once the ultimate lawyer, whose satanic brief was to argue vehemently against a venerable deceased's canonisation. But the devil's advocate's effective abolition by Pope John Paul II appears to have led to the creation of an unprecedented numbers of saints. So is there a need for the devil in the Vatican City? And will there always be a place for devilish lawyering?

Iniquity

The post of devil's advocate was institut...

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