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Dr. Owen Vyner.

Department of Theology Chair Dr. Owen Vyner’s latest paper was recently published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Antiphon: A Journal for Liturgical Renewal, offering readers an assessment of the possibility and desirability of confession through videoconference technology. Titled “Disembodied Conversion or Gift of Mercy,” Vyner’s paper seeks to provide broad stroke arguments pertaining to the subject, both in favor of and against, through an examination of canonical, liturgical, and theological issues.

Vyner, who is an Associate Professor of Theology at Christendom, was inspired to write the paper after the shutdown of the Church’s liturgical-sacramental life in response to the potential dangers of COVID-19 in 2020.

“The faithful should not be denied the sacraments if properly disposed and not prohibited by canon law,” writes Vyner.

To this end, some theologians asked the question: could confession be done via videoconferencing, such as Zoom? Since no magisterial teaching exists specifically that relates to this subject, Vyner decided to write this paper, presenting arguments both in favor of and against.

“The goal is not to focus primarily on an in-depth analysis of one thinker or magisterial documents, [but] rather… to examine the principles of potential arguments that could be put forward in order to initiate scholarly discussion,” writes Vyner.

Vyner begins by presenting arguments in favor of the proposal based upon the notion of “moral presence” and the nature of personal action. After this, he discusses arguments against from the perspective of the ecclesial nature of sacramental penance and the sacramentality of the body as well as examining studies that evaluate the efficacy of telemedicine and video-counselling. Finally, Vyner suggests proposals that could govern the administration of “confession” through video. While Vyner cautiously suggests that it might be possible due to the nature of contrition, he concludes that such a proposal would damage the sacramental life of the Church.

Dr. Owen Vyner earned his B.A. from the University of Western Australia, his Master’s in theology and his Ph.D. from the John Paul II Institute (Melbourne), and finally his STL from the Liturgical Institute (Mundelein). Vyner specializes in liturgical and sacramental theology, especially the sacrament of penance, along with theological anthropology. In addition to papers published in Antiphon, Vyner has also written for Homiletic and Pastoral Review and Anthropotes.

To read the full paper, visit here (subscription required).

Dr. Owen Vyner.
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