Utopia, Euthanasia and the Catholic Church

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Pretend for a moment you are a sailor, you have been at sea for about two months and you can not wait to get home. Suddenly a terrible storm rolls in on the horizon, you do not panic thinking it will pass. However, it hits your ship with a vengeance, throwing people over board at every turn. Then you fall into a black stupor; when you awake you are on an island. The people graciously take you in and you are shocked to find them incredibly hospitable. The people tell you where you are and begin to explain how their society functions. All the people on this island are dressed almost identically and every single one of them has a purpose and a place in society. The island you have landed on is Thomas More’s ideal fictional society, Utopia. In 1516, Thomas More published Utopia, which is considered to be one of his most influential works. Although, More was not the first person to write about an ideal society he did coin the term Utopia. This term has become an idea and has subsequently been used to create a new genera of literature containing idealistic societies and even a few dystopic societies. Utopia is filled with ideas that in the year 1516 would have been radical. In Utopia everyone, including women, receive an education and continue growing intellectually until they die. The Utopians also support euthanasia if it deemed by the priests and councils to be the last resort. Euthanasia is the action in which a person intentionally, possibly with the help of others such as doctors or nurses ends, their life to be released from pain and suffering. The topic of euthanasia is incredibly controversial in modern society. Even in Thomas More’s time it was considered to be wrong by most societies due to the Catholic Church’s position, which for centuries has been against any idea that threatens the sanctity of life. Thomas More was an incredibly religious man; he became a martyr of the Catholic Church when he would not sign King Henry VIII’s First Succession Act. With this in mind why would More write about euthanasia in his idealic society when he believed so much in the Catholic Church and it’s teachings? The answer could be simply for satirical purposes. This paper will discuss the idea of euthanasia presented in Utopia and how it is problematic with the Catholic Church’s view of life.

Thomas More introduces the Utopians as a people who live for pleasure. However, their ideas of pleasure are quite different than that of a modern American. The Utopians have pleasure of the mind and the body. The pleasure of the mind is their individual intellectual pursuits. On the other hand, the pleasures of body are divided in to two parts. The first are the sensory perceptions such as food and drink. The second pleasure of the body is health. Utopians view health as “the calm and harmonious state of the body… when undisturbed by any disorder”. The Utopians believe much like many people today, that pain is the opposite of pleasure. In their mindset pain is correlated with disease which is the opposite of health therefore health and pleasure are aligned.

The Utopians maintain health and pleasure to remain an active participant in society, which is their most important duty. Every single Utopian not only has a trade but also knows how to farm for they are all required to spend some part of their lives farming. They only work six hours of the day the rest of their time is devoted to their own intellectual endeavors. The Utopians function as a collective group even though they do not all have the same ideas. The majority of the Utopians agree on a religion in which there is one Supreme Being who is their parent, however, those that do not quite agree with the masses still have something in common with them; all Utopians believe that there is only one higher power whatever it may be. More introduces the idea of religious tolerance and freedom into his fictional society. He also describes, “how eagerly...
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