How Are We Saved
The Bible teaches that we are only saved by “grace.” Grace is the unmerited favor of God earned by Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross. Christ’s gift blesses our previously unworthy good thoughts and good choices and good deeds and makes them pleasing to God.
Catholics from the time of St. Peter have always believed that salvation is not a “one time” event but rather a “process.” We obviously fall out of and climb back into grace many times over our life. If we are granted enough time to appreciate Christ’s instructions on how to lead our lives, we will have repented of every sin and end our days in a blessed state of mind. That is to say if we trust in Christ and truly love God and our neighbor and confirm that with our actions over a lifetime, we will not have to alter our entire world view at the last instant. 
No Christian believes we can buy our way into heaven. Rather the theology requires us to steadfastly intend to do good deeds after the example of Christ whenever the opportunity presents itself. Unfortunately throughout history, scurrilous opportunists have always tried to gain influence, money, and power by corrupting the good message for their own ends making promises they can’t keep, dictators and democrats and new Protestant sects alike. 
This is in part because the Christian message so resonates in the hearts of mankind. People yearn for an authoritative description of it. But without the inerrant consistency of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, Protestants have split into some 15,000 denominations each with a different slant on the Bible. All may be, but at least a few must be wrong. Protestants and even some Catholics often love to repeat a formula for salvation or some definition of grace like mindless parrots. And the ferocity of belief is often in proportion to a cult like lack of critical thought.
Dissenting individuals, like John Calvin, or Martin Luther, or King Henry VIII, or Joseph Smith, or Mary Baker Eddy, or any of the 15,000 new interpretations, did not personally walk with Christ, as did the Apostles and St. Peter the first Catholic Pope. Nor was anyone given authority to alter Christ’s words from the Bible, as Martin Luther attempted in an excess of reforming zeal. 
Thankfully Christ created a Catholic Church on Earth and gave the “Keys to the Kingdom” to St. Peter the first Pope.  Indeed the first Catholics elected successors to Judas and the Apostles. And Christ would not have given this authority if he thought it would be corrupted. Accordingly Catholics believe that Christ’s Catholic Church will not fall into serious teaching error. That is if a conclave of a majority of Catholic Bishops, or alternatively even the Pope himself, when speaking in a formal setting “ex Cathedral” which means in a formal proclamation of faith, will be protected from error. That this has been enacted less than five times in two millennia is a tribute to how seriously Catholics take this principle.
Thankfully the essential Christian message of love for God and neighbor remains in most Christian communities and serves as a bulwark against the God-less attack by Islam and modern Atheism. It is better to stand together than to focus on minutia and to fight our fellow believers.
1. Four Witnesses: The Early [Catholic] Church in Her Own Words, March 1, 2002, by Rod Bennett.
2. Martin Luther attempted to REWRITE the Bible because it did not support his new theology.
3. Bible quotes noting the uselessness of a simple “acceptance” of Christ’s message without GOOD WORKS from “The Companion Bible” ed. E. W. Bullinger, Kregel Publicathons, King James Version:
James 2:14 “What doth it profit, my brethren though ‘a man say he have faith and have not works?’, can faith save him?”
James 2:17 “Even so faith, if it have not works is dead, being alone.”
4. Bible quotes creating the Catholic Church and installing St. Peter as the first Pope.
Matthew 16:18-19 “And I say also unto thee, that ‘thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my [Catholic] Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.’ And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”