|...but what about non-Catholics?!|
For instance, while it is the goal of ecumenism to overcome obstacles to unity, Unitatis Redintegratio nevertheless acknowledges that “many of the significant elements and endowments, which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church” and, therefore, these separated communities “most certainly can truly engender a life of grace” and “must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation” (UR, 3). If anyone at the Council of Trent wrote words such as these they would have been taken outside the Council chambers and immediately burned at the stake.
So it is not true that Vatican II changed Church teaching on the spiritual state of our separated brethren. For one, no one but God can truly know the spiritual state of anyone, including our separated brethren. But the Church can speak, and has spoken, on what is true and what is not, and Protestantism is just as false a path to salvation today as it was during the Council of Trent. All that has changed is pastoral strategy: the Church now approaches our separated brethren with the respect due all human beings and affirms in their theologies whatever can be affirmed as true. At the time of Trent, Protestantism was largely a freely chosen heresy. Today it is a heresy that is passed on from generation to generation. Protestants today are, in a sense, “born this way”.