June 9-11, 2017

Members receive discounted or complimentary registration to the Summer Conference. Join here.


Peter Kreeft, Boston College
Sr. Bethany Madonna, Sisters of Life
Ryan T. Anderson, Heritage Foundation
John F. Crosby, Franciscan University of Steubenville
Erika Bachiochi, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, National Catholic Bioethics Center
and more


including a performance of Sacred Music by the

Portsmouth Abbey
285 Cory’s Lane
Portsmouth, Rhode Island 02871

Register Here

(Registration Deadline: June 2)

Please contact Elizabeth Soldi at esoldi@portsmouthabbey.org or 401.643.1175 for more information.

Conference Description
Registration Rates
Conference Schedule
Conference Sponsors
Hotels & Accommodations
Area Attractions
Portsmouth Abbey School Golf Tournament

Conference Description


The essence of life is statistical improbability on a colossal scale. – Richard Dawkins

We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. – Stephen Hawking

Humanity, in the modern mind, is a colossal accident.  We are, as the quotes above suggest, improbably advanced monkeys.

This means, of course, that humanity is essentially meaningless, in that we are not endowed with a transcendent telos, or purpose – we are simply made to survive and ultimately evolve to some other more advanced being.

If taken seriously, the assumption that humanity has no transcendent purpose has the opportunity to shape not only how we practice our faith, but how we organize societies, how we consider justice, what value we place on human life, and what limits we are willing to push in shaping and misshaping human identity.

In Thomas More’s Utopia, for example, More considers a society where transcendent purpose is non-existent, where religious belief is accepted insofar as it contributes to social order, and where the purpose of human life is to follow the rules of society and contribute to Utopia’s economic productivity. As a result, the sick and elderly are euthanized, marriage is reduced to a transaction of erotic desire without the prerequisite of agápē, or true love, and the people generally live a life not of human flourishing, but of relative slavery. This vision of society is, I believe, the danger of reducing the human being to mere temporal substance—an advanced monkey to be trained and pacified.

Instead, to contemplate our true meaning, we should turn to the wisdom of the Church, which through a combination of reason and revelation articulates a clearly defined and transcendent meaning of the human person.

It is in the spirit of Pope Benedict XVI’s inspired words below that the Portsmouth Institute’s 2017 Summer Conference will address the theme “Being Human: Christian Perspectives on the Human Person.” No less than the future of Western civilization rests on how we define what it means to be human. It is important that we get it right.

“For the Church in our day I see three principal areas of dialogue, in which she must be present in the struggle for man and his humanity: dialogue with states, dialogue with society – which includes dialogue with cultures and with science – and finally dialogue with religions. In all these dialogues the Church speaks on the basis of the light given her by faith. But at the same time she incorporates the memory of mankind, which is a memory of man’s experiences and sufferings from the beginnings and down the centuries, in which she has learned about the human condition, she has experienced its boundaries and its grandeur, its opportunities and its limitations. Human culture, of which she is a guarantee, has developed from the encounter between divine revelation and human existence. The Church represents the memory of what it means to be human in the face of a civilization of forgetfulness, which knows only itself and its own criteria. Yet just as an individual without memory has lost his identity, so too a human race without memory would lose its identity. What the Church has learned from the encounter between revelation and human experience does indeed extend beyond the realm of pure reason, but it is not a separate world that has nothing to say to unbelievers. By entering into the thinking and understanding of mankind, this knowledge broadens the horizon of reason and thus it speaks also to those who are unable to share the faith of the Church. In her dialogue with the state and with society, the Church does not, of course, have ready answers for individual questions. Along with other forces in society, she will wrestle for the answers that best correspond to the truth of the human condition. The values that she recognizes as fundamental and non-negotiable for the human condition she must propose with all clarity.”


The Portsmouth Institute for Faith and Culture is a center for Catholic thought that explores the intellectual tradition of the Church and promotes the renewal of contemporary culture. We do this in the spirit of Saint Benedict, our patron, and in service to the new evangelization. The Portsmouth Institute is a joint apostolate of Portsmouth Abbey and School and Saint Louis Abbey and Priory School.

To learn more about the Portsmouth Institute and the upcoming 2017 Summer Conference, please visit www.portsmouthinstitute.org or e-mail Executive Director Christopher Fisher at cfisher@portsmouthabbey.org.


Registration Rates

Group rates available. Please contact Elizabeth Soldi at esoldi@portsmouthabbey.org or 401.643.1175 for more information.

Premium: $425

• Invitation to VIP cocktail reception at Carnegie Abbey Club with conference speakers

• VIP seating at dinner programming

• One complimentary book from the conference book sale

• Access to all conference sessions

• Meals and receptions throughout the weekend

Standard: $275

• Access to all conference sessions

• Meals and receptions throughout the weekend

Clergy and Religious: $150

• One Standard Registration

Teacher: $150

• One Standard Registration (open to K-12 and university professors)

Student and Young Adult: $75

• One Standard Registration (open to any one ages 18-35)

Single Day Pass (Friday afternoon/evening): $50

• Dinner, keynote address, and receptions on Friday evening

Single Day Pass (Saturday): $125

• Access to all events on Saturday


Conference Schedule

Click here for conference program.

Please contact Elizabeth Soldi at esoldi@portsmouthabbey.org or 401.643.1175 for more information.

 Conference Sponsors




Hotels and Accommodations

Portsmouth Abbey Dormitories (select on registration form):

$75/night single-occupancy
$125/night double-occupancy

Linens including sheets and pillow are provided. Please note that this is DORM STYLE accommodations, with common bathrooms and dorm room furniture. If you prefer more comfortable accommodations, please see our hotel listing below.

If you choose to stay in the dormitories, we advise that you bring the following:

Personal window fan
Shower Caddy
Toiletries and soap
Bathrobe and sandals (common bathrooms on each floor)

Marriott Courtyard – Room block available under “Portsmouth Abbey” (Middletown, RI)
Holiday Inn (Middletown, RI)
AirBnB (Aquidneck Island)

Area Attractions

Newport Mansions
Green Animals Topiary Garden
Newport Art Museum
Redwood Library and Athenæum
Downtown Newport, RI
Downtown Bristol, RI

Join us for prayer, conversation, and contemplation
at beautiful Portsmouth Abbey