Is First Communion before Confession allowed?

Our church prepares 2nd graders to receive their First Holy Communion and then two years later, has them receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When my parents questioned our Pastor, he said he inherited this when he became Pastor, but they were welcome to prepare my sister for the Sacrament of Reconciliation first if they would like to and they did. It’s been two years since, and no change has been made. Is this okay? Should it be in a certain order?

Is this a critical teaching of the Church? Should we be thinking about attending a different Church? Thank you for your help!

In the Latin Rite, First Confession is always done prior to receiving First Communion.

Can. 914 It is primarily the duty of parents and of those who take their place, as it is the duty of the parish priest, to ensure that children who have reached the use of reason are properly prepared and, having made their sacramental confession, are nourished by this divine food as soon as possible. It is also the duty of the parish priest to see that children who have not reached the use of reason, or whom he has judged to be insufficiently disposed, do not come to Holy Communion.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1457: According to the Church’s command, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year. Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession. Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.

The Sacred Congregations of the Sacraments and for the Clergy (SS. CC. Sacr. et Cler., 24 May, 1973) AAS 65-410 state the following:

The “Addendum” to the , however, which was promulgated by the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy on 11 April, 1967 (AAS, 1972, pp. 97-176), strengthened the practice of putting the sacrament of penance before the First Communion of children by these words: "After having weighed everything and having in view the common and general practice which cannot be directly derogated from without the approval of the Holy See, and after having heard the episcopal conferences, the said Holy See judges it fitting that the current custom in the Church of putting confession before First Communion be preserved."1
Full text here.

It might be interesting to note that “….In the Eastern rites the Christian initiation of infants also begins with Baptism followed immediately by Confirmation and the Eucharist, while in the Roman rite it is followed by years of catechesis before being completed later by Confirmation and the Eucharist, the summit of their Christian initiation" (*Catechism of the Catholic Church * 1233). The Mystery of Penance (Eastern Rite term) is not participated in until some years afterwards.

Answer continued below…

III. Responsum

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.

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