If a pastor were to counsel someone living in sin to receive the Eucharist, how would that be good advice? How would it be pastoral? Would it not be the exact opposite of pastoral?
To pastor is to lead to Christ. If such advice leads to a sin against the Sacrament of the Eucharist, how could it be pastoral? Now, the Holy Spirit does not ensure that all pastoral advice will be good advice. Rather, if a priest is holy and wise, his advice is very likely to be good advice. Thus, those who seek holiness should solicit the counsel of priests who are holy and wise.
Sometimes pastors do give very damaging advice. For instance, if a priest were to tell a contracepting person, “Contraception is ok; it is not a sin,” this would be very damaging advice. It would cause the person to sin. Again, a confessor might tell a young man who masturbates, “It is ok; it is not a sin.” But such judgments are false. And the confessor is obligated to know they are false. Such judgments can lead a man to hell!
So, pastors can corrupt the lived lives of the faithful through their foolish counsel, even if their taught doctrine be not corrupt. Through their advice and counsel, they can lead astray. Let us pray that those in authority such as bishops and priests will grant only wise permissions and will do what must be done in terms of pastoral advice, thus providing the pilgrim flock with the Bread of Life and the Doctrine of Purity. This is Pope Francis’s prayer.
But if a pastor were to counsel one living in sin to receive the Eucharist, would he not fail to feed his flock and to guide it and guard it by not preaching the requisite conditions for the reception of the Eucharist? By pretending that sin is no longer sin. By pretending that a pastoral declaration, “You are ok” is enough to justify a man in God’s sight. But it is not enough. Sin remains sin, though we try to cover it with our declarations. Only God can erase sin. And he has instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation for this purpose.
And the valid reception of that sacrament requires firm purpose of amendment. Otherwise, the man who approaches that sacrament, and intends to go on living in sin afterwards, is making a mockery also of this sacrament. Thus, he sins twice. And should he receive the Eucharist, three times.
If wholesale pastoral permission were given to a group of people living in sin to receive the Eucharist, how on earth would such permission be for their eternal welfare? Would it not be an ecclesial corruption? Would it not be the abdication of the proper role of pastors? Would it not be to leave the flock to the very wolves, to the Lion who prowls about seeking whom to devour?
We must pray that so foolish a decision would not be made.