From an article in Commonweal called Praying to Buddha by the wonderfully named Peter Phan from Georgetown the theoretically Catholic University.
For example, Dominus Iesus, the declaration issued in 2000 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asserts that “if it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the church, have the fullness of the means of salvation.” As I was writing this essay, meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that official Saudi first-grade textbooks for Islamic studies affirm that “every religion other than Islam is false.” My point is not that Dominus Iesus and Saudi religious textbooks are parallel. Rather, it is that the Dominus Iesus statement will be read and understood one way in the corridors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and in another, quite different way in the context of a dialogue with Islam-and specifically in a contemporary geopolitical context inflamed by the notion of a “clash of civilizations” that pits Muslim against Christian. Furthermore, it is only after serious and prolonged dialogues of life, action, and religious experience that one can say with any degree of certainty whether a devout Muslim is always and “objectively speaking” in “a gravely deficient situation” and necessarily worse off than a Catholic who has at his or her disposal “the fullness of the means of salvation.”
I also bet that Dominus Iesus will be read one way in the "corridors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and in another, quite different way" in the corridors of Commonweal.
I would think that a truly devout Muslim compared to a devout Catholic would still be objectively deficient. They might both make it to heaven, but in their life other believers are still handicapped as compared to a Catholic that avails themselves and lives the teachings of the Church and the sacraments. For example MacGyver might be able to easily get himself out of a burning room with some duct tape and a Swiss Army knife and whatever he finds available in the room. As for myself I would much prefer access to an oxygen mask and the switch to trigger a Halon system. Being faithful and living the sacraments is a surefire way to avoid fire.
The article starts off by talking about his Catholic mother who once would have totally segregated herself from for example Buddhists and is now willing to give money to Buddhists nuns and call Buddha a holy man. The contention is that in her youth she was taught "Catholicism-was the true religion, and all other religions the work of the devil."
How, then, could an old woman like my mother, God-loving and church-fearing, a twice-a-day churchgoer raised to believe that no one except Catholics can be saved, do what she did that day in that pagoda? And what, exactly, happened between the 1960s and 2000 that enabled her to honor the Buddhist nun, pray to the Buddha, and contribute money to the maintenance of the pagoda? The answer lies in the dramatic expansion during our era of interreligious dialogue, particularly as it has been espoused by the church since Vatican II.
I think he is just building up a straw man. While it is quite possible that she might have been taught this, you can’t really say this is what the Church has taught. For example before Vatican II Fr. Feeney S.J. was excommunicated in 1953 for having a rigid interpretation of the Catholic doctrine extra ecclesiam nulla salus, or "outside the church there is no salvation", denying baptism of blood and baptism of desire as "heretical innovations" and believing that all unbaptized human beings were not saved.
Now as to praying to Buddha. I guess it is possible to pray to him in a fully Catholic sense in the same way that you might ask a relative who has passed on to pray for you. You have no guarantee that they are able to pray for you, but there is really nothing wrong with this practice and a lot of good to recommend it. If you personally believe that Buddha is now part of the Communion of Saints and want to specifically ask for his intercession with Jesus off the top of my head I wouldn’t raise an objection. Though of course there is a truly a danger to praying to him outside of a Catholic sense. With so many sure saints surely it is much better to seek their intercession.