I admit that I am a bit surprised at how much shock has been expressed by the realization that N.T. Wright’s understanding of how works relates to justification is more in line with a Protestant than a Catholic reading. Denny Burk provided some examples of quotes from Wright’s books that he thought justified the assumption that Wright understood final justification to be “on the basis” of our works (see here). I guess I can understand where these isolated instances may cause some confusion but I don’t think Wright has changed his position over time.
For Wright it has always been the case (in my reading of his work) that there is a serious question that needs to be asked in relation to so-called “imputation”: What about the Holy Spirit? I have understood Wright to be saying that we are actually changed and that our works are (as his clarification asserts) in accordance with our final justification because we are a new creation. If we are merely counted and declared righteous without actually being made righteous in what sense are we saved at the eschaton? In what sense are we changed in the inner being waiting change in the outer being? What makes us different at the resurrection?
Maybe I have been reading Wright as I want to understand him but his recent clarifications at ETS seemed to affirm that he did not see final justification as being something we merit through behavior.