The point of having someone play Devil's Advocate in a debate is to bring forward arguments that may not be represented by those present. This comes in useful in situations where the majority agree on an issue, but it is still felt that discussion will bring out further, valuable perspectives.

In informal situations it is often easy for someone to play Devil's Advocate without others realising that is their intent. This can actually help to bring out feelings and ideas that may otherwise lie smothered or be left behind due to the participants reluctance to stand up for their own opinion.

In fact, the role of Devil's Advocate is most useful when almost everyone thinks the same way about an idea. People traditionally tend to dismiss certain views as wrong beause this is the way they have learnt things should be. The Devil's Advocate can remind them of the contrasting approaches without having to be charged with supporting them.

Advocatus diaboli

From the sixteenth century until it was abolished by the late Pope John Paul II, an advocatus diaboli (the devil's advocate") was appointed to argue against the case made by the promotor fidei (promotor of the faith, or the advocatus dei (God's advocate)) for the canonization or beatification of someone. Essentially canon law required that all arguments for and against the canonization and beatification had to be presented before the so-called "Sacred Congregaton of Rites", which was the ecclesiastical body tasked with preparing the case for presentation to the pope. Both these men were canon lawyers, essentially presenting the two sides of the case. Needless to say, when the late Pope John Paul II abolished this pratice, he effectively streamlined the procedure. John Paul II created more than five times as many saints as all his predecessors in the 20th century.

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