Bro' this works both ways. Check out the 39 articles some time. And besides, I think you WAY overestimate the average RC's gut-level fear of the Church's anathema, and the power of that fear to mess up our thought process. You should have been at last week's enquirers class, when the priest made a point and said, "How's that?" and the guy in back of me said loudly, "That's Baloney!" and the priest laughed and said, "Oh, Joe always thinks I'm full of it."
But, more to the point:
I don't know how I can explain this, but it was a convinced belief in sola gratia that led me from being a Calvinist type Episcopalian priest to being a Catholic. About 110% of my prayer life is about trying to STOP working. All my alleged works, and especially my contribution to them, are as filthy [G-rated translation] rags. I GET that. Feed me enough Scotch and I'll start boring you with evidence. So, while I'm still a pathetic glutton for praise and entirely susceptible to flattery, when something good follows something I did, I am always astonished and utterly prepared to give God ALL the glory.
When one of the Dominicans (aka "order of Preachers') at my parish preaches a barn-burner, I (as a former clergydude and someone therefore who knows the personal anguish that lies behind a good sermon) come bursting out of the church expostulating with praise, they always say,"Praise God."
The reason is so clear. FIRST a sermon is a failure if ALL you come away with was, "What a great sermon!" The POINT, the telos, the heneka hou is, "What a great God!" But also, they know, as I know, that if the words that come out of their mouth touch the heart of someone in a salvific way, then, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes."
So when you write about timorous R theologians afriad to consider that there might be another way of looking at things, what you say is completely out of touch with my experience on the ground. And when you view what we say about works as contradicting the all-sufficient merit of our Lord and our utter dependence on Him "both to will and to do" you do not make contact with our theology.
The works are a gift. The merit is a gift. It is all gift. That's why our chief act of worship is called "Thanksgiving", which being translated is "Eucharist"
That was parry. Now for the thrust:
It is the Prots (well okay, only some of them, and I should say 'Protestants' and not be snotty) who are so conditioned to look down on and to condemn us Catholics, that they rush to embrace lies about what we do and think rather than pause to see if that's really what we do and think. A former colleague (in law enforcement, not the clergy) read, at my request, "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis. This guy is a very smart very committed Calvinist. From our conversation afterwards it became clear that ALL he saw in this book was those parts which might possibly be construed as hemi-demi-semi-Pelagian. He's got the gain on his Pelagianism detector set so high that the resultant static drowns out everything else that might be good. And you say WE can't look at stuff?
"For by Grace are you saved, it is a gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9
I guess I'd better go call the Inquisition, huh. Holy Office! Check your messages!
So many of the complaints against us are that we are corrupting the po', ignorant, innocent laity. Leaving aside the implicit condescension in this concern, I here adduce a lay person who seems to get it. And she is not a college graduate and her job is book-keeper. I guess we have her under our pseudo-Tridentine thumb, huh?
I recall a religious survey some years ago. I don't remember the numbers but a majority of the Lutherans surveyed thought works had to do with salvation. So I'm sure you'll find some Catholic lay people, not schooled in the niceties of theological lingo, who will seem to deny the sufficiency of Christ's merit,as evidently you will find them among Lutherans. But I'd hate to build a case about Luther on the basis of a survey of Lutherans, or against the Catholics on the basis of what two Protestants conclude from talking to each other.