But what you said was that "earlier papal teaching" was that basically EENS applies only to one who "knowingly and deliberately rejected [the claims of the Church regarding her divine foundation and mission], knowing them to be true but still choosing to remain outside her membership." This is apparently what you hold to be the dogmatic content of the doctrine that outside the church there is no salvation.
Even if Bl. Pius IX agrees with you, that hardly proves what you've said about earlier papal teaching, and I believe leaves intact my statement that "As far as I can tell, the 'rigorist' (i.e., something like this [link to a long book by a Fr. Michael Muller, C.Ss.R.]) reading of the doctrine was fairly common straight up through the 18th century at least, although it wasn't dogmatic." I mean, if you look at, for instance, Cardinal Bellarmine's treatise "de Ecclesia Militante," he takes care to explain how catechumens and those unjustly excommunicated are within the Church and hence can be saved, but there's nary a word in favor of heretics and schismatics, ignorant or not. Many others, so far as I have read, seem to speak similiarly, although not all, e.g., one could evidence Pighius on the matter, or Father Fisher's comments in his debate with Archbishop Laud, and these men do hold out a tenuous hope of salvation for such persons. That being said, it's hardly very far from catechumens to those truly laboring under invincible ignorance, and perhaps one could instance this as a devolopment of doctrine (differing merely in the details of the practical application of the principle "extra ecclesiam nulla salus"). Certainly the Letter of the Holy Office does clearly state that some persons who are invincibly ignorant of the divine mission of the Church can be saved through an implicit votum or desire, and this is the controlling authority for theological speculation today.
That you are in agreement with Bl. Pius IX is by no means clear to me, though. The excerpt from Singulari Quidem speaks of invincible ignorance, sure. But let's look at the whole passage (Denz. 30th edition, Deferrari's translation, no. 1646):
Not without sorrow we have learned that another error, no less destructive, has taken possession of some parts of the Catholic world, and has taken up its abode in the souls of many Catholics who think that one should have good hope of the eternal salvation of all those who have never lived in the true Church of Christ. Therefore, they are wont to ask very often what will be the lot and condition after death of those who have not submitted in any way to the Catholic faith, and, by bringing forward most vain reasons, they make a response favorable to their false opinion. Far be it from Us, Venerable Brethren, to presume on the limits of the divine mercy which is infinite; far from Us, to wish to scrutinize the hidden counsel and "judgments of God" which are "a great deep" [Ps. 35:7] and cannot be penetrated by human thought. But, as is Our Apostolic duty, we wish your episcopal solicitude and vigilance to be aroused, so that you will strive as much as you can to drive from the mind of men that impious and equally fatal opinion, namely, that the way of eternal salvation can be found in any religion whatsoever. May you demonstrate with that skill and learning in which you excel, to the people entrusted to you care that the dogmas of the Catholic faith are in no wise opposed to divine mercy and justice.
For, it must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no one can be saved; that this is the only ark of salvation; that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood; but, on the other hand, it is necessary to hold for certain that they who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if this ignorance is invincible, are not stained by any guilt in this matter in the eyes of God. Now, in truth, who would arrogate so much to himself as to mark the limits of such an ignorance, because of the nature and variety of peoples, religions, innate dispositions, and of so many other things? For, in truth, when released from these corporeal chains "we shall see God as He is" [1 Jn. 3:2], we shall understand perfectly by how close and beautiful a bond divine mercy and justice are united; but, as long as we are on earth, weighed down by this mortal mass which blunts the soul, let us hold most firmly that, in accordance with Catholic teaching, there is "one God, one faith, one baptism" [Eph. 4:5]; it is unlawful to proceed further in inquiry.
But, just as the way of charity demands, let us pour forth continual prayers that all nations everywhere may be converted to Christ; and let us be devoted to the common salvation of men in proportion to our strength, "for the hand of the Lord is not shortened" [Is. 9:1] and the gifts of heavenly grace will not be wanting those who sincerely wish and ask to be refreshed by this light. Truths of this sort should be deeply fixed in the minds of the faithful, lest they be corrupted by false doctrines, whose object is to foster an indifference toward religion, which we see spreading widely and growing strong for the destruction of souls.
Now, his words are clearly directed not against "Feeneyite-Jansenist rigorism" (why the Jansenists? I don't recall any argument between them and the Catholics on the matter) but against indifferentism and denial of the dogma "that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no one can be saved." Invincible ignorance is introduced here not as an exception, or as uniting to the Church, but only as preventing culpability for failing to join the Church. As membership is not only a necessity of precept but of means, this scarcely asserts that such persons are saved. The rejection of proceeding "further in inquiry" (into the vincibility or invincibility of the ignorance of persons) appears directed at those who pretend to have good hope for the salvation "of all those who have never lived in the true Church of Christ" on account of their supposedly invincible ignorance. The Pope continues on to assert that "the gifts of heavenly grace will not be wanting those who sincerely wish and ask to be refreshed by this light."
He never asks the bishops to reject that "rigorism" which was a very common teaching in the Church. I mean, come on. Look at Cardinal Newman's "On Faith and Private Judgment." He says that pretty much every Protestant in England doesn't even have real divine faith (without which no man can be saved,) and this sort of teaching was all throughout the Church. The Pope's directives here are to teach the faithful that God will come to the help of those who pray for grace and that God's justice is not contradictory to His mercy--not to inform them that thanks to invincible ignorance, they should affirm to non-Catholics that they have no need to fear for their salvation, as you appear to be claiming is effectively the teaching of the Church.
Quanto conficiamur is more explicit and basically affirms what the Letter of the Holy Office to Archbishop Cushing did. Glossing the Pope's statement as teaching only a necessity of precept, as you seem to do, is off-base. He affirms that the Catholic dogma is "that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church, and that those who obstinately oppose the authority of the definitions of the Church, and who stubbornly remain separated from the unity of the Church and from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, to whom the Saviour has entrusted the care of his vineyard, cannot obtain salvation." Here we have both the necessity of means ("no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church") and the necessity of precept ("obstinately ... stubbornly"), the same as the Letter of the Holy Office teaches.
You might want to take a look at Msgr. J. Fenton's extensive commentary on both SQ and QCM in his book The Catholic Church and salvation in the light of recent announcements by the Holy See (Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Press, 1958). Msgr. Fenton was dean of theology at CUA, a cofounder of the CTSA, and editor of the American Ecclesiastical Review: very well respected and hardly an eccentric in his theological positions. The "laxist" reading of these two papal documents you seem to be advocating is hardly the only possible or historical one or even the best one.
Your comments about the Church not being "the visible Catholic Church" are puzzling. You then say to Hermann that you don't believe in an invisible Church. So I take it you hold that there are two visible Churches, one the Church of Christ, the other the Catholic Church which is a subset of the Church of Christ? This hardly seems consistent with the teaching that the Roman Catholic Church and the Mystical Body of Christ are one and the same thing, which was reaffirmed by Pius XII in Mystici Corporis, Humani generis, and then by the Council (see Lumen Gentium §8, esp. footnote 10; also the definition of the Church in OE §2). And I cannot see how the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church, which on earth is visible, cannot be identical with the society designated by the term "Church of Christ."
St. Luke 10:16. He that heareth you, heareth me: and he that despiseth you, despiseth me. And he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me.
Marginal Note: It is all one to despise Christ, and to despise his Priests and Ministers in the Catholic Church: to refuse his doctrine, and theirs.
St. Luke 13:25. But when the good man of the house shall enter in, and shut the door, and you shall begin to stand without, and knock at the door, saying, Lord open to us: and he answering shall say to you, I know you not whence you are: then you shall begin to say,
26. We did eat before thee and drink, and in our streets didst thou teach.
26. Eat before thee.] It is not enough to feed with Christ in his Sacraments, or to hear his word in the Church, to challenge heaven thereby, unless we live in unity of the Catholic Church. So St. Augustine applieth this against the Donatists, that had the very same service and Sacraments which the Catholic Church, had yet severed themselves from other Christian countries by Schism.
St. John 3:5. JESUS answered, Amen, Amen I say to thee, Unless a man be borne again of water and the Spirit, he can not enter into the kingdom of God.
5. Born again of Water.] As no man can enter into this world nor have his life and being in the same, except he be born of his carnal parents: no more can a man enter into the life and state of grace which is in Christ, or attain to life everlasting, unless he be born and baptized of water and the Holy Ghost. Whereby we see first, this Sacrament to be called our regeneration or second birth, in respect of our natural and carnal which was before. Secondly, that this sacrament consisteth of an external element of water, and internal virtue of the Holy Spirit: Wherein it excelleth John's baptism, which had the external element, but not the spiritual grace. Thirdly, that no man can enter into the Kingdom of God, nor into the fellowship of Holy Church, without it. Whereby the Pelagians, and Calvinists be condemned, that promise life everlasting to young children that die without baptism, and all other that think only their faith to serve, or the external element of water superfluous or not necessary: our Saviour's words being plain and general. Though in this case, God which hath not bound his grace, in respect of his own freedom, to any Sacrament, may and doth accept them as baptized, which either are martyred before they could be baptized, or else depart this life with vow and desire to have that Sacrament, but by some remediless necessity could not obtain it. Lastly, it is proved that this Sacrament giveth grace ex opere operator, that is, of the work itself (which all Protestants deny) because it so breedeth our spiritual life in God, as our carnal birth giveth the life of the world.
St. John 3:18. He that believeth in him, is not judged. But he that doth not believe, is already judged because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten son of God.
18. Is judged already.] He that believeth in Christ with faith which worketh by charity (as the Apostle speaketh) shall not be condemned at the later day nor at the hour of his death. But the Infidel, be he Jew, Pagan, or Heretic, is already (if he die in his incredulity) by his own profession and sentence condemned, and shall not come to judgment either particular or general, to be discussed according to his works of mercy done or omitted. In which sense St. Paul saith that the obstinate Heretic is condemned by his own judgment, preventing in himself, of his own free will, the sentence both of Christ and of the Church.
St. John 10:1 AMEN, amen I say to you, he that entereth not by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbeth up another way: he is a thief and a robber.
1. Climbeth another way.] Whosoever taketh upon him to preach without lawful sending, to minister Sacraments, and is not Canonically ordered of a true Catholic Bishop, to be a Curate of souls, person, bishop, or what other spiritual Pastor soever, and cometh not in by lawful election and holy Church's ordinance to that dignity, but breaketh in against order by force or favor of men, and by human laws, he is a thief and a murderer. So came in Arius, Calvin, Luther, and all Heretics: and all that succeed them in room and doctrine. And generally every one that descendeth not by lawful succession in the known ordinary line of Catholic Bishops and Pastors that have been in all countries since their conversion. And according to this rule St. Irenaeus li. 3 c. 3 trieth the true shepherds from the thieves and heretics. So do Tertul. de Praescr. nu. 11; St. Cypr. de unit., Ec. nu. 7; St. August. ep. 165 and cont. ep Manich. c. 4 and Lirinensis.
St. John 15:4. Abide in me: and I in you. As the branch can not bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine: so you neither, unless you abide in me.
4. Unless it abide.] Whosoever by Heresy or Schism or for any other cause is cut off or separated from the Church, he can do no meritorious work to salvation.
St. John 17:3. And this is life everlasting that they know Thee, the only true God, and JESUS CHRIST Whom Thou hast sent.
3. Life everlasting.] Both the life of glory in heaven, and of grace here in the Church, consisteth in the knowledge of God: that, in perfect vision: this, in faith working by charity; for, knowledge of God without keeping his commandments, is not true knowledge, that is to say, it is an unprofitable knowledge. 1 Io. 2.
Romans 5:14. But death reigned from Adam unto Moses, even on them also that sinned not after the similitude of the prevarication of Adam, who is a figure of him to come.
14. Unto Moses.] Even in the time of the Law of nature, when men knew not sin, and therefore it could not be man's judgment be imputed: and in the time of Moses Law, when the commandment taught them to know it, but gave them no strength nor grace to avoid it, sin did reign, and thereupon death and damnation, even till Moses inclusive, that is to say, even till the end of his Law. And that not in them only which actually sinned, as Adam did, but in infants which never did actually offend, but only were born and conceived in sin, that is to say, having their natures defiled, destitute of justice, and averted from God in Adam, and by their descent from him: Christ only excepted, being conceived without man's seed, and his mother for his honor and by his special protection (as many godly devout men judge) preserved from the same.
1 Corinthians 10:21. You can not drink the chalice of our Lord, and the chalice of devils: you can not be partakers of the table of our Lord, and of the table of devils.
21. Partakers of the table.] Though the faithful people be many ways known to be God's peculiar, and be joined both to him and among themselves, and also severed and distinguished from all others that pertain not to him, as well Jews and Pagans, as Heretics and Schismatics, by sundry other external signs of Sacraments, doctrine, and government: yet the most proper and substantial union or difference consisteth in the Sacrifice and Altar: by which God so specially bindeth his Church unto him, and himself unto his Church, that he acknowledgeth none to be his, that is not partaker of his one only Table and Sacrifice in his Church: and acquitteth himself of all such as join in fellowship with any of the Heathen at their Idolatry, or with the Jews at their Sacrifices, or with the Heretics and Schismatics at their profane and detestable table. Which because it is the proper badge of their separation from Christ and his Church, and an altar purposely erected against Christ's Altar, Priesthood, and Sacrifice, is indeed a very sacrifice, or (as the Apostle here speaketh) a table and cup of Devils, that is to say, wherein the Devil is properly served, and Christ's honor (no less than *by the altars of Jeroboam or any profane superstitious rites of Gentility) defiled. And therefore all Catholic men, if they look to have fellowship with Christ and his members in his body and blood, must deem of it as of Idolatry or sacrilegious superstition, and abstain from it and from all society of the same, as good Tobias did from Jeroboam's calves and the altars in Dan and Bethel: and as the good faithful did from the Excelses, and from the temple and sacrifices of Samaria. Now in the Christian times we have no other Idols, but heresies, nor Idolothytes, but their false services shifted into our Churches instead of God's true and only worship. Cypr. de unit. Ec. nu. 2.; Hiero. in 11 Osee. & 8. Amos. & in 3. Habac.; Aug. in Ps. 80 v. 10. De Civ. Dei li. 18 c. 51.
1 Corinthians 13:3. And if I should distribute all my goods to be meat for the poor, and if I should deliver my body so that I burn, and have not charity, it doth profit me nothing.
3. Deliver my body.] Believe (saith St. Augustine) assuredly and hold for certain, that no Heretic and Schismatic that uniteth not himself to the Catholic Church again, how great alms so ever he give, yea or shed his blood for Christ's name, can possibly be saved. For, many Heretics by the cloak of Christ's cause, deceiving the simple suffer much. But where true faith is not, there is no justice, because the just liveth by faith. So it is also of Schismatics, because where charity is not, justice can there be none: which if they had, they would never pluck in pieces the body of Christ which is the Church. Aus. seu. Fulg. de fid. ad Pet. c. 39. So saith St. Augustine in divers places, not only of Heretics that died directly for defense of their heresy, as the Anabaptists and Calvinists now a days do (for that it is more damnable): but of some Heretics and Schismatics that may die among the Heathen or Turks for defense of truth or some Article of Christ's religion. Aug. de verb. Do. sr. 50 c. 2. & in Psal. 34 conc. 2 prope finem.; Cypr. de unit. Ec. nu. 8.
Ephesians 4:5. One Lord, one faith, one baptism
5. One faith.] As rebellion is the bane of civil Commonwealths and kingdoms, and peace and concord, the preservation of the same: so is Schism, division, and diversity of faiths or fellowships in the service of God, the calamity of the Church: and peace, unity, uniformity, the special blessing of God therein, and in the Church above all Commonwealths, because it is in all points a Monarchy tending every way to unity. But one God, but one Christ, but one Church, but one hope, one faith, one baptism, one head, one body. Whereof St. Cyprian li. de unit. Ec. nu. 3 saith thus: One Church the Holy Ghost in the person of our Lord designeth and saith, One is my dove. This unity of the Church he that holdeth not, doth he think he holdeth the faith? He that withstandeth and resisteth the Church, he that forsaketh Peter's chair upon which the Church was built, doth he trust that he is in the Church? When the blessed Apostle St. Paul also showeth this Sacrament of unity, saying, One body and one spirit, etc. Which unity we Bishops specially that rule in the Church, ought to hold fast and maintain, that we may prove the Bishoply function also itself to be one and undivided, etc. And again, There is one God, and one Christ, and one Church, and one Chair, by our Lord's voice founded upon Peter. Another altar to be set up, or a new Priesthood to be made, besides one altar, and one Priesthood, is impossible. Whosoever gathereth elsewhere, scattereth. It is adulterous, it is impious, it is sacrilegious, whatsoever is instituted by mans fury to the breach of God's divine disposition. Get ye far from the contagion of such men, and flee from their speeches as a canker and pestilence, our Lord having premonished and warned before hand, They are blind, leaders of the blind, etc. Whereby we learn that this unity of the Church commended so much unto us, consisteth in the mutual fellowship of all Bishops with the See of Peter. St. Hilary also (li. ad Constantium Augustum) thus applieth this same place of the Apostle against the Arians, as we may do against the Calvinists. Perilous and miserable it is, saith he, that there are now so many faiths as wills, and so many doctrines as manners, whiles either faiths are so written as we will, or as we will, so are understood: and whereas according to one God, and one Lord, and one Baptism, there is also one faith, we fall away from that which is the only faith, and whiles more faiths be made, they begin to come to that, that there is none at all.
Ephesians 5:23. Because the man is the head of the woman: as Christ is the head of the Church. Himself, the Saviour of his body.
Marginal note: No salvation out of the Catholic Church
23. Saviour of his body.] None hath salvation or benefit by Christ, that is not of his body the Church. And what Church that is, St. Augustine expresseth in these words. The Catholic Church only is the body of Christ, whereof he is head. Out of the body the Holy Ghost quickeneth no man. And a little after, He that will have the Spirit, let him beware he remain not out of the Church, let him beware he enter not into it feignedly.
Hebrews 11:6. But without faith it is impossible to please God. For he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and is a rewarder to them that seek him.
6. He that cometh.] Faith is the foundation and ground of all other virtues and worship of God, without which no man can please God. Therefore if one be a Jew, a heathen, or an heretic, that is to say, he be without the Catholic faith, all his works shall profit him no whit to salvation.
1 St. Peter 3:21. Whereunto Baptism being of the like form now saveth 'you' also: not the laying away of the filth of the flesh, but the examination of a good conscience toward God by the resurrection of JESUS Christ.
21. Of the like form.] The water bearing up the Ark from sinking, and the persons in it from drowning, was a figure of Baptism, that likewise saveth the worthy receivers from everlasting perishing. As Noe (saith St. Augustine) with his, was delivered by the water and the wood, so the family of Christ by Baptism signed with Christ's Passion on the Cross. Lib. 12 Cont. Faustum c. 14. Again he saith, that as the water saved none out of the Ark, but was rather their destruction: so the Sacrament of Baptism received out of the Catholic Church at Heretics or Schismatics hands, though it be the same water and Sacrament that the Catholic Church hath, yet profiteth none to salvation, but rather worketh their perdition. Which yet is not meant in case of extreme necessity, when the party should die without the said Sacrament, except he took it at an Heretics or Schismatics hand. Neither is it meant in the case of infants, to whom the Sacrament is cause of salvation, they being in no fault for receiving it at the hands of the unfaithful, though their parents and friends that offer them unto such to be baptized, be in no small fault. St. Jerome to Damascus Pope of Rome, compareth that See to the Ark, and them that communicate with it, to them that were saved in the Ark: all other Schismatics and Heretics, to the rest that were drowned.
1 St. John 1:3. that you also may have society with us, and our society may be with the Father and with his Son JESUS Christ. Marginal note: No salvation but in the Society of the Church
3. You may have society.] St. John showeth manifestly, that whosoever desire to be partakers with God, must first be united to the Church's society, learn that faith, and receive those Sacraments, which the Disciples received of the Truth itself, conversant with them in flesh. So saith Venerable Bede upon this place. Whereby we see there is no society with God in sects or schisms, nor anywhere but in the unity, fellowship, and commandment of that Church which can prove itself to descend from the Apostles.
Undoubtedly, this all qualifies as the "rigoristic" view.
Actually, this is the Allocution Singulari Quadem.
Singulari Quidem was an Encyclical of Bl. Pius IX issued several years later. It reads in part:
Teach that just as there is only one God, one Christ, one Holy Spirit, so there is also only one truth which is divinely revealed. There is only one divine faith which is the beginning of salvation for mankind and the basis of all justification, the faith by which the just person lives and without which it is impossible to please God and come to the community of His children (Romans 1; Hebrews 11; Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 8). There is only one true, holy, Catholic Church, which is the Apostolic Roman Church. There is only one See founded on Peter by the word of the Lord (St. Cyprian, Epistle 43), outside of which we cannot find either true faith or eternal salvation. He who does not have the Church for a mother cannot have God for a father, and whoever abandons the See of Peter on which the Church is established trusts falsely that he is in the Church (ibid, On the Unity of the Catholic Church).
Bl. Pius IX, Encyclical Singulari Quidem, March 17, 1856
For very obvious reasons, the partisans of the laxist position never cite this Encyclical. Sounds quite like a recapitulation of Boniface VIII's "Unam Sanctum", doesn't it?
Quanto conficiamur is more explicit and basically affirms what the Letter of the Holy Office to Archbishop Cushing did.
Why not take the simple one line summary of this Encyclical that Bl. Pius IX himself caused to be written and use it as the guide to properly divining its meaning?
17. One ought to at least have good hope for the eternal salvation of all those who in no way dwell in the true Church of Christ. - Encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore, August 10, 1863, etc.
Syllabus of Errors, December 8, 1864
That was easy, wasn't it? Catholics are bound by faith to reject the idea that there is at least good hope for the salvation of those apart from the Church.
The laxist interpretations of Bl. Pius IX also ignore the clear teaching of the First Vatican Council concerning the nature of the Catholic faith compared to false religions:
And since "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6) and to attain the fellowship of His children, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification: nor will anyone obtain eternal life, unless he shall have persevered in faith unto the end (cf. Matthew 10:22, 24:13). And that we may be able to satisfy the obligation of embracing the true faith and of persevering in it, God has instituted the Church through His only-begotten Son, and has bestowed upon it manifest marks of that institution, that it may be recognized by all men as the guardian and teacher of the revealed word; for to the Catholic Church alone belong all those many and admirable tokens which have been divinely established for the evident credibility of the Catholic Faith ...
... And its (the Catholic Church's) testimony is efficaciously supported by a power form on high. For our most merciful Lord gives His grace to stir up and to aid those who are astray, that they may come to a knowledge of the truth (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4); and to those whom He has brought out of darkness into His own admirable light, He gives His grace to strengthen them to persevere in that light, deserting none who desert not Him. Therefore there is no parity between the condition of those who have adhered to the Catholic truth by the heavenly gift of faith, and of those who, led by human opinions, follow a false religion; for those who have received the faith under the magisterium of the Church can never have any just cause for changing or doubting that faith (canon 6).
Vatican Council I, Session 3, Dei Fillius (Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith), Chapter 3, April 24, 1870
Laxists also studiously ignore other Papal pronouncements of the same period, as if Popes such as Leo XII who proceeded Bl. Pius IX by but a few decades, had nothing relevant to say on the matter. Quite contrary though:
It is impossible for the most true God, who is Truth Itself, the best, the wisest Provider, and rewarder of good men, to approve all sects who profess false teachings which are often inconsistent with one another and contradictory, and to confer eternal rewards on their members. For we have a surer word of the prophet, and in writing to you We speak wisdom among the perfect; not the wisdom of this world but the wisdom of God in a mystery. By it we are taught, and by divine faith we hold, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and that no other name under heaven is given to men except the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth in which we must be saved. This is why we profess that there is no salvation outside the Church.
Pope Leo XII, Encyclical Ubi primum, 14, May 5, 1824
Its really so simple and elementary. The mental contortions and gymnastics needed to prove that the pithy summary of St. Cyprian really means the opposite of its literal reading are quite painful.
When St. Paul says: "God will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth." (1 St. Timothy 2.4), it should immediately spring to mind that the Lord said "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through Me." (St. John 14.6) "And this is life everlasting that they know Thee, the only true God, and JESUS CHRIST Whom Thou hast sent." (St. John 17.3)
That this is the authentic interpretation of 1 St. Timothy 2.4 is made clear in the Catechism:
Indeed, God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4); that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the prompting of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 851
The universal salvific will of God is accomplished in and by the Church through her missionary work of rescuing souls from ignorance and sin. This is why the Catechism can simply explain this dogma in one sentence that cuts through all the obfuscation.
"Outside the Church there is no salvation"
846. How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? (cf. St. Cyprian, Epitle 73.21; De unitate catholicae Ecclesia.) Reformulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is His Body.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 846
In other words, the dogma is joyful news. "Salvation can be had in the Catholic Church. Here Almighty God communes with man and divinizes him."
The contrary sad reality is painfully aparent to anyone with eyes and a mind to think. Original sin closed heaven off to mankind, and all the superstitions of Hinduism, of heresies, of Shamanism, of Astrology, of Fertility Cults, and so on can do nothing to change this reality.
Man can beg for forgiveness of sins apart from the Catholic Church - if he is even awake enough spiritually to realize his crimes - but in the Catholic Church he can actually have that forgiveness. Man can ask to be reborn from his filth apart from Christ and His Church - within it he is assured of being and actually is reborn and washed clean. Man can seek grace and blessings without - inside he can have them and rejoice in them.
"No salvation outside the Church" is a proclimation that no longer is religion the spiritual equivalent of the mathematical empty set when it comes to securing man eternal rewards. Now there is a solution for THE problem of mankind. We were apart from God out there. But God is with us here.
How can we contaminate such good news then with placid assurances that salvation is easily available to everyone outside the Church, even if they never join themselves to her? Isn't this really a total rejection of everything we believe?
Identical yes, coterminous, no. One has termini that are of a different sort than the other. See # 193. The debate is really about "termini" and boundaries. I'm simply applying a sacramental, incarnational principle: wondrously the Infinite and Absolute Creator stoops to our level and becomes incarnate. He is on th eone hand visible, bounded by his human nature, bounded in space and time. But He, the Divine Person, who is bounded is also obviously at the same time not bounded. The incarnation and his incarnate boundedness cannot be ignored in the manner of the Docetists or Gnostics but neither can the Savior be reduced to his incarnate boundedness.
It would be an awful lot easier to understand if we could go to the one extreme (Gnostic spiritualizing unboundedness) or the other (Adoptionist/Liberal merely human, bounded, prophet with an extra dose of the Spirit's unction) but our faith insists on holding both in tension.
Therefore, the Church is both bounded, terminated, structured in its visible, earthly form and we can be bounded, visible, formal members of that Church but the Church in toto, the Church founded by Christ upon Peter is not coterminous.
You have pointed out a fallacy in my terminology. I should have avoided saying not "identical" because it's potentially confusing--there is identity between the visible Church on earth headed by the successor of Peter and the Church founded by Christ on Peter, identity of subsistence, but not coterminousness because the one has clear, earthly termini and the other does not.