The "Christ Alone" of the Protest [...] was a reminder that Christ alone is our savior, and that nothing else is needed for salvation except Christ alone.I do not think any Catholic disagrees that "Christ alone is our Savior". Where Catholic theology does differ, though, is what "nothing else is needed for salvation except Christ alone" means. What does it mean to "have Christ" (that is, to fill the need for Christ)? Does it mean...
But Rome goes further and states that such works merit the attainment of eternal life (Council of Trent). That is cause for protest; something has been added where Christ alone belongs. [...] It is through Christ that we have eternal life, not through our merits.
- saying the sinner's prayer?
- being baptized?
- going to church on a regular basis?
- loving your neighbor and your enemy?
- doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy?
- reading the Bible often?
And what is "Christ alone"? Does it exclude the Church, which is his body, and of which he is the head? How can you have the head without the body?
As for the Council of Trent, I believe you are referring specifically to Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 16. Let's take a look at it (emphasis mine):
Therefore, to men justified in this manner, whether they have preserved uninterruptedly the grace received or recovered it when lost, are to be pointed out the words of the Apostle: Abound in every good work, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58); For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in his name (Heb 6:10); and, Do not lose your confidence, which hath a great reward (Heb 10:35).In addition to this are a few of the canons defined thereafter:
Hence, to those who work well unto the end (Matt 10:22) and trust in God, eternal life is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God himself, to be faithfully given to their good works and merits (cf. Rom 6:22).
For this is the crown of justice which after his fight and course the Apostle declared was laid up for him, to be rendered to him by the just judge, and not only to him, but also to all that love his coming (cf. 2 Tim 4:8).
For since Christ Jesus Himself, as the head into the members and the vine into the branches (cf. John 15:1-8), continually infuses strength into those justified, which strength always precedes, accompanies and follows their good works, and without which they could not in any manner be pleasing and meritorious before God, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained in its [due] time, provided they depart [this life] in grace (cf. Rev 14:12), since Christ our Savior says: If anyone shall drink of the water that I will give him, he shall not thirst forever; but it shall become in him a fountain of water springing up into life everlasting (John 4:13-14).
Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own from ourselves (cf. Rom 10:3; 2 Cor 3:5) nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated, for that justice which is called ours, because we are justified by its inherence in us, that same is [the justice] of God, because it is infused into us by God through the merit of Christ.
Nor must this be omitted, that although in the sacred writings so much is attributed to good works, that even he that shall give a drink of cold water to one of his least ones, Christ promises, shall not lose his reward (cf. Matt 10:42; Mark 9:40) and the Apostle testifies that, That which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor 4:17); nevertheless, far be it that a Christian should either trust or glory in himself and not in the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17), whose bounty toward all men is so great that He wishes the things that are His gifts to be their merits.
And since in many things we all offend (James 3:2), each one ought to have before his eyes not only the mercy and goodness but also the severity and judgment [of God]; neither ought anyone to judge himself, even though he be not conscious to himself of anything (cf. 1 Cor 4:3-4); because the whole life of man is to be examined and judged not by the judgment of man but of God, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise from God (cf. 1 Cor 4:5), who, as it is written, will render to every man according to his works (cf. Matt. 16:27; Rom 2:6; Rev 22:12).
Canon 26. If anyone says that the just ought not for the good works done in God (see above) to expect and hope for an eternal reward from God through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ, if by doing well and by keeping the divine commandments they persevere to the end, (cf. Matt 24:13) let him be anathema.There is much said here that I think both parties can agree on. For one, the paragraph quoting the letter of James says that "neither ought anyone to judge himself, even though he be not conscious to himself of anything". Surely, despite all our good works, we are not to judge ourselves as worthy or good or clean; judging is God's and His alone. However, as Paul writes in Romans 2, God will repay us according to our works, so while we are not to determine our fate based on our good works, we cannot ignore that God does take them into account and does so accurately and justly.
Canon 32. If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and in case he dies in grace, the attainment of eternal life itself and also an increase of glory, let him be anathema.
So then, let me deal with what I believe are the worrisome statements of Trent.
Eternal life is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God himself.
This does not say that you can attain eternal life by either grace or good works, it is saying that eternal life is offered to as as both a grace (a totally unmerited gift through faith in Jesus Christ) and as a reward (for the virtuous work we do in Christ). I understand this to mean we are to unite ourselves to the work of Jesus Christ, and in doing so -- forsaking family and possessions if necessary -- be rewarded with so much more in return, including eternal life (cf. Luke 18:28-30). This reward would not exist if it were not for our faith in Jesus Christ.
Christ ... continually infuses strength into those justified, which strength always precedes, accompanies and follows their good works, and without which they could not in any manner be pleasing and meritorious before God, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life.
This is probably misinterpreted in much the same way, but it is qualified by the fact that the good works in question are the fruit of the strength infused into us (the justified) by Christ. Those who are justified by Christ receive strength that is found before, during, and after their virtuous works. That strength is necessary for them to found pleasing to God, but it doesn't stop there. They can be seen as meritorious because of that strength working through them. I think Trent missed the boat when they neglected to refer to the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30). The three servants received coins from their master, but one of them did not invest it. This servant was cast out! And to the one who had received the most coins, more was given! It was not enough for the master that the servant received the coins -- he did nothing with them. It was not enough that the servant returned the coins inviolate -- he had to fruit to show. The master knows he would not have received ten talents from his servant had he not given him five to start with! It is not that the servant who received five talents was worthy to receive greater responsibility then: it was proven to be so by the fruits of the investment made in him.
I believe it is the same idea found in Paul's first letter to Timothy (6:12) when he says take hold of the eternal life to which you were called. Don't let the investment of the Lord in you -- this grace -- be stagnant. Take hold of it! You can't earn it -- we know that much -- but you can show that you can earn and merit even more graces by what you have done with the graces you first received. You will show that eternal life is not just your promise but your reward as well. Paul writes about this in Romans 2 of all places! But it's important to remember that this meriting is never without the foundation of the merit of Christ which we could never earn.
Nor must this be omitted, that although in the sacred writings so much is attributed to good works ... nevertheless, far be it that a Christian should either trust or glory in himself and not in the Lord.
Here it is. The Catholic Church, at the Council of Trent, affirms we are not to glory in our good works done in Christ nor in ourselves, but we are to glorify only the Lord. We are not even to trust in our good works, because there could never be enough of them to merit what we have received by grace, and they exist only through the strength of Christ in us. Do not worship the creature, worship the Creator!
Canon 26 says that "the just" -- that is, those who are justified in Christ -- can "expect and hope for an eternal reward from God through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ" provided they persevere as Jesus said they must, and they are virtuous ("doing well") as Jesus taught them to be. It says they can expect this reward "for the good works done in God"; it does not say "through their good works", but "through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ".
Canon 32 says that "the good works of the one justified" are not only gifts of God but also meritorious and produce an increase of grace. This hearkens back to Matt 25:14-30 again. The five talents the servant received was an initial grace, the investment which produced five more is a "good work", and the five additional talents exist for two reasons: because the master gave him the first five and because the servant invested them. He has five more talents because he co-operated with the gift given to him. The investment was meritorious: the servant received additional talents from his master, not because he received five, but because through the five he produced five more -- not of his own power, but through the power endowed him by his master.
It is, of course, an imperfect analogy (if one can accuse Christ of teaching imperfectly) but it is the one through which we understand the need to co-operate with the graces we receive, the true source of the fruits those graces produce, and the reward we receive for this co-operation.