Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship and Sacred Congregation for the Clergy Reply to a query on first confession and first communion, 20 May 1977: AAS 69 (1977) 427; Not 13 (1977) 603
After the Declaration of 24 May 1973, is it still lawful for first communion to precede first confession as a general rule in those parishes where this practice has been in force for the last several years?
The Congregations for the Sacraments and Divine Worship and for the Clergy, with the approval of Pope Paul Vl, have replied:
No, in accord with the mind of the Declaration.
That mind is that a year from promulgation of the Declaration there be an end to all experiments in which first communion is received without prior reception of the sacrament of penance and that the discipline of the Church return to the spirit of the Decree Quam singulari.
Again, the Church speaks on March 31, 1977:
*In quibusdam Ecclesiae partibus *
In some parts of the Church and in some centers for catechetics, even though the Declaration Sanctus Pontifex was published on 24 May 1973 jointly by the Sacred Congregations for the Discipline of the Sacraments and for the Clergy (see AAS 65, 1973, 410), & dissension and doubts still remain about the ecclesiastical discipline relevant to children’s receiving the sacrament of penance before they receive their first communion. Many inquiries and requests have come to this Apostolic See from bishops, priests, and parents. One apostolic religious institute, exercising its minis- try in many countries, has posed the question explicitly: after the promulgation of the Declaration, is it still lawful for first communion to precede first confession as a general rule in those parishes where this practice has been in force for the last several years?
That confession should precede communion is clear from the order in which these two sacraments are listed in the Decree, as well as from the fact that the repudiated abuses concerned the admission not to confession but rather to communion.
The need for safeguarding and protecting worthy participation in the Eucharist has compelled the Church to introduce as the norm in its discipline and pastoral practice that confession should precede communion. In this way it respects the right of the faithful, both adults and children, to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.
Full text here.
Father Saunders speaks to the “moral conscience” argument used by many to justify the postponement of First Confession to a much later date: Click here.
The Magisterial texts on the obligation of First Confession before First Communion are here.