I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian. While I like what this ultimately leads me to I’ll admit that it’s not always the most fun position to hold. Going against the flow in almost any area carries a burden with it. But it also allows for greater diversity and depth of perspective.
Recently I’ve been reading this book and it mentioned a part of the Catholic Church that I had never heard the full story of before.
For centuries, the Catholic Church made use of a “devil’s advocate” in canonization decisions (i.e., in deciding who would be named a saint). The devil’s advocate was known inside the church as the promotor fidei—the “promoter of the faith”—and his role was to build a case against sainthood. John Paul II eliminated the office in 1983, ending 400 years of tradition. Since then, tellingly, saints have been canonized at a rate about 20 times faster than in the early part of the twentieth century.
An effective promotor fidei is not a token argumentative smarty-pants; it’s someone who deeply respects the Catholic Church and is trying to defend the faith by surfacing contrary arguments in situations where skepticism is unlikely to surface naturally. (Who wants to argue against someone who’s lived a life so admirable that they merit consideration as a saint?)