What can I expect to experie?

God or the Machine? Seeking Truth in a Technological Age

With an evening performance by the Hillbilly Thomists

June 14-15, 2024
Portsmouth Abbey
Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Featuring Speakers:

Matthew Crawford, author, Shop Class as Soulcraft and The World Beyond Your Head
Patrick Deneen, University of Notre Dame, author of Why Liberalism Failed
Joseph Vukov, Loyola University Chicago, author of The Perils of Perfection
Tara Isabella Burton, author of Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World
D.W. Pasulka, University of North Carolina
Carlos Eire, Yale University
Jane Sloan Peters, College of Mount Saint Vincent
Brett Robinson, University of Notre Dame
Leo Clarke, author of Man and the Economy: Understanding Capitalist Economics and Social Teaching

Hosted in Collaboration with the Providence College Humanities Program

The Portsmouth Institute welcomes individuals and organizations dedicated to advancing Catholic thought in contemporary culture to partner with us as sponsors of the 2024 Humanitas Summer Symposium. Those interested can email Executive Director Chris Fisher at institute@portsmouthabbey.org and look at our sponsorship opportunities: 2024 Humanitas Summer Symposium Sponsorship Packet.

Why this theme?

In his message for the 57th World Day of Peace on January 1, 2024, Pope Francis spoke to the urgent need for Catholics to consider the challenges technology poses to human flourishing in the modern world: “We rightly rejoice and give thanks for the impressive achievements of science and technology, as a result of which countless ills that formerly plagued human life and caused great suffering have been remedied. At the same time, techno-scientific advances, by making it possible to exercise hitherto unprecedented control over reality, are placing in human hands a vast array of options, including some that may pose a risk to our survival and endanger our common home.” 

In response to His Holiness’ call for Catholics to lead the global conversation on the proper role and limits of technology in the 21st century, the Portsmouth Institute’s 2024 Humanitas Summer Symposium will convene top Catholic scholars, public intellectuals and leaders to consider the challenges and opportunities which rapid advances in technology pose to the social order and the Christian life. Questions we will confront include: How does technology affect our ability to understand the truth? How does technology lead to the loss of critical intellectual faculties —and what are the consequences? What is the relationship between technology and addiction? How can beauty help us to contemplate truth in a digital age? How can students learn in the age of ChatGPT? 

In addition to keynote lectures and panel discussions from top public intellectuals in the field, participants will have the chance to discuss how we might apply timeless ideas in the Catholic intellectual tradition to contemporary challenges during breakout sessions led by faculty from Portsmouth Abbey School and Providence College. Plentiful hospitality and the Benedictine monastic liturgies at Portsmouth Abbey will cultivate a convivial environment of learning, fellowship, and prayer.

Gather with like-minded friends for a memorable weekend of learning, fellowship, and prayer.

Participate in important conversations at the intersection of faith and culture with Catholics leaders and public intellectuals

Experience the Benedictine life of hospitality, study, and prayer.

Examine the Catholic intellectual tradition in small-group discussion sessions with expert teachers and scholars from Portsmouth Abbey School and Providence College.

“Grow in knowledge and grace” among friends in a beautiful, convivial, and uplifting setting at Portsmouth Abbey, nestled along the coast of Rhode Island’s scenic Narragansett Bay

Receive a beautiful copy of readings published by our partners at Cluny Media

Portsmouth Institute members enjoy special perks, including priority seating and members-only events over the weekend

No academic expertise is required, simply a “love of learning and desire for God.”

What is the schedule?


3:00 – 5:00 PM

Room Check-In for Overnight Guests

5:00 PM

Registration & Opening Reception

6:00 PM

Dinner & Keynote Address

7:30 PM

Evening Hospitality


7:20 AM

Holy Mass Available

7:30 AM – 8:30AM

Continental Breakfast Available

8:30 AM

Panel I and Breakout Discussion

10:45 AM

Panel II

12:15 PM

Midday Prayer

12:30 PM


1:45 PM

Panel III & Breakout Discussion

4:30 PM

Vigil Mass

5:30 PM

Evening Reception

6:00 PM

Dinner & Keynote Address

7:30 PM

Evening Hospitality featuring the Hillbilly Thomists


9:30 AM

Check out for overnight guests

*Subject schedule to change.

What are we reading?

Readings to be posted shortly.

Who are the speakers?

Matthew Crawford | Matthew B. Crawford attended the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he majored in physics. Later he earned a Ph.D. in political philosophy from the University of Chicago, specializing in ancient political thought. Currently he is a senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, but lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Patrick Deneen | Patrick J. Deneen holds a B.A. in English literature and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University.  From 1995-1997 he was Speechwriter and Special Advisor to the Director of the United States Information Agency.  From 1997-2005 he was Assistant Professor of Government at Princeton University.  From 2005-2012 he was Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Associate Professor of Government at Georgetown University, before joining the faculty of Notre Dame in Fall 2012.  He is the author and editor of several books and numerous articles and reviews and has delivered invited lectures around the world.

Joseph Vukov | Joseph Vukov is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and the Associate Director of the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage at Loyola University Chicago. He is also an Affiliate Faculty Member in Catholic Studies and Psychology at Loyola, and the Vice President of Philosopher’s in Jesuit Education. In September 2022, he published Navigating Faith and Science with Eerdmans and in 2023, he published The Perils of Perfection with New City Press. In 2024, he’ll be publishing a book on AI and Christianity with New City Press. In 2020, he was named a Sujack Master Teacher and in 2019, was awarded the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Freshmen.

Tara Isabella Burton | Tara Isabella Burton is the author of the novels Social Creature, The World Cannot Give, and the forthcoming Here in Avalon (Simon & Schuster, January 2024), as well as the nonfiction books Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World and Self-Made: Curating Our Image from Da Vinci to the Kardashians. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, National Geographic, ​Granta, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and more. She also co-writes the Substack newsletter “Line of Beauty” with her husband, Dhananjay Jagannathan. Tara received a doctorate in theology from Oxford in 2017. She is a Visiting Fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.

D.W. Pasulka | Dr. Diana Walsh Pasulka is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. She writes and teaches about the history of the Catholic tradition and new religious movements, particularly as they intersect with digital technologies. Her published work, on topics as varied as the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, UFOs, and human potentials, has received international acclaim. Recent books include American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, and Technology (Oxford University Press 2019) and Encounters: Experiences with Non-Human Intelligences (MacMillan Press 2023). Dr. Pasulka contributes to a diverse range of media and her work can be found in Vice, Vox, Fox News, Tank, The Los Angeles Review of Books, among other venues.

Carlos Eire | Carlos Eire, who received his PhD from Yale in 1979, specializes in the social, intellectual, religious, and cultural history of late medieval and early modern Europe, with a focus on both the Protestant and Catholic Reformations; the history of popular piety; the history of the supernatural, and the history of death. Before joining the Yale faculty in 1996, he taught at St. John’s University in Minnesota and the University of Virginia, and was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton for two years.  He is the author of War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship From Erasmus to Calvin (1986); From Madrid to Purgatory: The Art and Craft of Dying in Sixteenth Century Spain (1995); A Very Brief History of Eternity (2010); Reformations: The Early Modern World (2016);  The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila: A Biography (2019); and They Flew: A History of the Impossible (2023).  

Jane Peters | Jane Sloan Peters is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, NY. Her dissertation explored Thomas Aquinas’s reception of Greek patristic and Byzantine biblical interpretation for his four-volume commentary on the Gospels, the Catena Aurea. Jane has written for First Things, the University of Notre Dame’s Church Life Journal, Plough Quarterly, and America Magazine. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two sons.

Brett Robinson | Brett Robinson is director of communications and Catholic media studies at the McGrath Institute for Church Life. In his role, he oversees outreach efforts for the institute while conducting research at the intersection of religion, technology and culture. Brett studied marketing and English at the University of Notre Dame and received his Ph.D. in Mass Communication from the University of Georgia. He has taught media studies courses at Duquesne University, the University of Georgia, Saint Vincent College and Notre Dame. Brett is the author of Appletopia: Media Technology and the Religious Imagination of Steve Jobs and his essays and commentary on technology and culture have been featured in Wired Magazine, CNN, the LA Times and Catholic News Service.

Leo Clarke | Leo Clarke spent his career as a lawyer serving as a deal lawyer, litigator, bank general counsel, law professor, and business executive. His scholarship this century has centered on cyberlaw, law and economics, and Catholic Social Teaching, including Man and The Economy (Cluny Media 2018). Leo has spoken on CST and/or technology at conferences from Seattle to Estonia and Rome to Dubai. He received degrees from Stanford and UCLA Law. He lives with his wife, Kathleen, in a nest now empty of eight children.

How do I register?

A summer symposium full weekend pass costs $595 per person. The fee covers materials, meals, cocktail receptions, and all lectures and seminars over the weekend. Clergy, religious, Benedictine oblates, young professionals and teachers at Catholic schools enjoy a discounted rate of $250. Students are able to register using the student rate of $175 with scholarships available.

Portsmouth Institute members enjoy members-only gatherings during the conference. Learn more and become a member here.

Guest passes are available at $150 per ticket for guests who would like to attend the evening receptions and programs but are not attending the seminars.

There are a limited number of scholarships available. Please contact us for details at institute@portsmouthabbey.org.   

Do you offer overnight accommodations?

Single Occupancy: $175/night | Double Occupancy: $225/night

Linens including sheets and pillow are provided. Please note that this is DORMITORY 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:

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

A hotel block has been reserved at the Sonesta Select Hotel in Middletown, RI. Please access the room block here.

Summer Symposium Cancellation Policy: For a full refund of tuition fees, please cancel with at least three weeks advance notice from the event’s date. We reserve the right to substitute speakers and/or cancel part of or the entire event due to circumstances beyond our control.