Pope John Paul II abolished* reduced the power and changed the role of the Promotor fidei (Promoter of the Faith) office, better known as Advocatus diaboli (Devil's advocate) in 1983, thereby the number of saint has increased since then a lot.

* - The misconception about the abolishment of the office comes from incorrect information in Wikipedia article

What was the reason of this action? Is the unnatural rise of saint only a side-effect, or it was meant this way? Why?

Was the office of Advocatus diaboli considered as bad or just dead-handed? Why?

Are there any other impacts caused by this decision?

Pope John Paul II eliminated the position of promoter fidei in 1983, ending 400 years of tradition. Since then, saints have been canonized at a rate about 20 times faster than in the early part of the twentieth century. Apparently it's now like the multiple Who's Who reference guides. If you're nominated, you're in. There's no opposition, thus it's lost it's meaning. And with no opposition, your great idea may not be developed to be of much importance.

from AskCatholic.com

  • There are at least two distinct questions here: 1) Why was the office eliminated. 2) Did this result in an increase in canonization?
    – Flimzy
    Apr 27, 2014 at 16:13
  • 1
    @Flimzy Some people hold a skeptical view of the Catholic church. Basically, the idea is that Pope John Paul II wouldn't have become a saint because of his shady past, if he didn't engineer the new process of canonization. His new process also paved the way for more saints to be canonized. That's the gist of the article. I would say that a person's past should not matter. If that person repents and lives a good life, then that's generally sufficient.
    – Double U
    Apr 27, 2014 at 17:46
  • @Anonymous: Okay, but how does that relate to my comment?
    – Flimzy
    Apr 27, 2014 at 18:01
  • @Flimzy It was an answer to your two questions. Some people take a skeptical view: that Pope John Paul II was trying to hide his shady past from public view, so he could get canonized and beatified.
    – Double U
    Apr 27, 2014 at 18:33
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    @Flimzy No, I think your two suggested questions can be considered sub-questions, but the essential question is about the rise and fall of the practice of the Devil's Advocate position in the canonization process of the Roman Catholic Church.
    – Double U
    Apr 27, 2014 at 18:40

1 Answer 1


Pope John Paul II abolished the Promotor fidei (Promoter of the Faith) office, better known as Advocatus diaboli (Devil's advocate) in 1983

No, he did not abolish this office. There is still one Promoter of the Faith for every cause of canonization. What Pope John Paul II did was to reduce his power to a great extent and change his role in the process of canonization.

Before the reform their job was not only to point out problems, but to actively seek them out. Furthermore, the canonization process could not move forward until every one of the Promotor Fidei's objections were answered to his satisfaction, giving him an effective veto power on the whole canonization.

In the modern procedure, the Promotor Fidei does not actively seek out problems, and no longer has anything close to a veto power over the process; his influence is reduced to presenting a report and being on hand as an "expert" whose opinion may be solicited, but there is nothing in the modern procedure where the Promotor Fidei submits a list of objections that must be answered by the Postulators. src

What was the reason of this action?

Because many bishops complained that the process of canonization was way too much cumbersome.

Is the unnatural rise of saint only a side-effect, or it was meant this way? Why?

Changing the role of this office was not the only cause for rise in canonizations. There are other factors too.

  • Previously four miracles were required for canonization. Now only two.
  • Also modern communication systems meant faster process.
  • Transporting of evidences and documents between diocesan bishops and the roman curia became faster.
  • Improvement in medical sciences and recording of medical history by default for all patients now allow more incidents to be taken for consideration of a miracle.

Are there any other impacts caused by this decision?

Other than the process becoming faster than before, I do not think there are any other impacts. After-all canonizations are infallible proclamations by the Pope.

  • nice answer. Thanks for pointing out the misconception about abolishment
    – user3499
    Apr 28, 2014 at 19:03
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    Also, the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which John Paul II approved, abolished 141 canons of the 1917 Code regulating beatifications and canonizations. The number of necessary miracles has decreased, too. Read what the 1917 Code said. You'll see there are many "NA"s in the cross-references to the '83 Code.
    – Geremia
    May 21, 2014 at 5:33

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