There are only two conclusions that can be drawn from such statements. The first is that I am not thoughtful, the second that I am not Catholic. Thoughtful in this context does not mean "kind," "tactful," or "charitable" (we've already concluded that I'm not that), but rather intelligent, learned, scholarly, philosophical, or at the very least thinking and reflective--that is, "full of thought"--so it is a bit of an insult to be considered "thoughtless" in this context. A greater insult still would be the alternative: that I am not Catholic. If I am not a Catholic, then I am not a Christian at all, but rather a hypocrite, and all of the thoughtfulness in the world would not avail me. Thus, to show that if I am either of these two things, I am a thoughtless Catholic, I have written this short response. The meat of his argument is to be found here:
An indulgence offers no surety that the purgatorial penalty for a sin is revoked, nor is it necessary for a purgatorial penalty to be revoked. Mr. Sanders wrote a lot, but he couldn’t deny those points. And unless they are denied indulgences are worthless.
So is the main thrust of his argument. Fair enough, and no, I did not deny either of the first two points: both because they weren't stated as such in his original post, and because there is no need to deny them. His conclusion simply does not follow from them. It's akin to saying that because I may not be injured suddenly in a car crash, and because I might be able to save up enough money on my own to pay for my expenses and living if I am so injured, therefore having insurance is worthless. The Church simply does not make the absolute claim which Mr Blake is insisting upon. Her claim is that if a person enters Purgatory, then an indulgence will shorten his stay there. This does not imply any guarantee that a person will make it to Purgatory (as opposed to Hell), any more than a purchase of insurance is a guarantee that I will have an accident. Nor is it a guarantee that a person will spend time there if he does not go to Hell, any more than insurance is a guarantee that I will have no money saved up.
This is about as far as the analogy will go, since indulgences aren't even intended as a sort of insurance policy per se. They certainly are not mandatory, as the insurance policies are increasingly becoming. I am free to pursue indulgences if I think that those will help me, or I am free to not pursue them; and, indeed, the only indulgences which I personally have obtained are those which are attached to activities which I do anyway, such as reading from the Scriptures for fifteen minutes daily. There may be no assurance that these will have efficacy for me, because I have no way of knowing that I'll spend time in Purgatory, though I do suspect that I will. But what I do have assurance of is that if I do spend some time in Purgatory, any indulgences which I have obtained will have some efficacy, either directly or indirectly*. That is the claim which the Church makes concerning indulgences.
I will end where he began. He opened by taking a rather gratuitous shot--to which I will not here post my snarky and gratuitous cheap shot response--at a footnote which I included as a matter of interest. Apparently, I am a thoughtless weasel and not merely a thoughtless person. He next turns to calling me out on suggesting that the post was prompted by me: "I’m married to a Catholic, attend mass nearly every Sunday, go to a Catholic university, and know a fair number of Catholics." Fair enough, I'm well aware that there are plenty of other (and more important) Catholics in his life. In the next line, he's telling me that "it’s not always about you, mate," which is also quite true (Deo gratias!). There is an equally true and fortuitous lemma to add to this statement, which is that the world does not revolve around him, either. This is to be my last post on the matter for now. I have a few other writing (and work-related) projects which require my more immediate attention. If he posts yet another rebuttal, I'll read it, but I don't intend to write further replies. Perhaps one of his other regular Catholic readers will reply if he chooses to post a rebuttal.
*Incidentally, the same can really be said about any prayer which I sincerely utter, and perhaps a few which I utter less than sincerely.