In his recent book “God and Caesar,” the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, said a “common heresy of our times” is believing that Catholics can accept and practice contraception, using the “primacy of conscience” as a justification.
Taking a metaphor from Oxford professor Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, the cardinal called this belief that has spread among Catholics the “Donald Duck heresy,” referring to the Disney character who "knows it all", and "has an unshakeable conviction of self-righteousness." The self-indulgent duck, explains Pell is well-meaning but "his activity is often disastrous for himself and others."
The same thing happens with Catholics who practice and promote a disordered vision of human sexuality through contraception, abortion and the destruction of embryos.
With claims to "primacy of conscience," he said, “they falsely believe themselves in the right, while they thus distort the image of God which the Creator intended to convey in the fruitful sexual union of husband and wife.”
"Too many 'Donald Ducks' produce a 'feel good' society, which works to remove personal guilt, anything that would make people feel uncomfortable, and complacent self-satisfaction becomes a virtue," writes Pell. "Confession of sins is replaced with therapy, and self-reproach with self-discovery."
Cardinal Pell noted that the false conception of the “primacy of conscience” was the object of John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor.
"Only truth, or the Word of God has primacy, and is the ultimate rule of action.” The individual conscience is necessary, but sometimes insufficient. “Even a genuine searcher for truth can be mistaken, sometimes with disastrous consequences," he added.
The book is a compilation of essays the Cardinal has penned over the years. In one essay which was delivered as a talk to the Linicare Conference in the UK in 2000, under the title "The Role of the Bishop in Promoting the Gospel of Life", the Cardinal warns that the Catholic Church would not grow unless the full teaching of the Church on life issues was promoted. "Tactical silence", as practiced by many bishops, would in fact stifle growth, he suggested.