To hope that babies who die without being baptized will go to heaven makes more sense than the idea that they go to limbo, says a group of papally appointed theologians.So, it makes more sense to hope that babies who die without being baptized go to heaven. That still leaves open the question of where they actually go. Personally, I hope that everyone goes to heaven, including Osama Bin Laden, Adolph Hitler, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett. For all I know, that's where they will all go--who am I to say? We condemn acts, not agents, and only God knows the state of any particular soul.
The difficulty with this sort of annoucement from the Vatican commision is that it confuses empirical evidence about who deserves what kind of justice in a system of justice like ours with the spiritual conditions requisite for communion with God. An innocent little baby appears to us more likely to go to heaven than either Adolph Hitler or Osama Bin Laden because the baby has done nothing deserving of exclusion from heaven, while those other fellows, well, they are often taken these days as the paradigm cases of Bad Guys. To see things in this way, however, is to make heaven a place of reward and hell a place of punishment in a strictly utilitarian sense--but that is not what they are. They wind up functioning as something like reward and punishment in our limited view of things, but what they actually are, according to our more nuanced theology, are manifestations of closeness to God. Those who respond to God's call and do his will just are those who will, in the end, enjoy the Beatific Vision, while those who willfully turn away from God--well, it's hard to see how they can enjoy the Beatific Vision when they aren't even looking at it, indeed, are willfully looking in the other direction.
The speculative doctrine of limbo is really nothing more than a coming to grips with this situation. St. Thomas says of limbo that it is not a place of punishment, but is rather a place where there is no suffering at all, because suffering is a figure for our sinfulness, but little babies (and certain others, apparently), are free from the sort of sin that is signified by suffering.
God's endless mercy, his love poured out in Jesus Christ and his desire to save all people gives a solid basis for hoping those children will be saved despite not having been baptized.It is easy to agree with this sentiment, but it is difficult to reconcile with certain positive doctrines, for example, the doctrine that one must have certain beliefs in order to enjoy the Beatific Vision--a necessary condition that appears to arise from the desire to connect salvation with a free act of the human will. Babies are not capable of making the free act of the will that we believe to be necessary to salvation in its fullest sense, but neither can we stomach the idea of little baby souls bloating around in limbo for all eternity, so we cling to the hope that they will all be with us in heaven. I'm not out to say that I don't share this hope, but I do think that this kind of thinking is hopelessly anthropomorphic. I think it's a mistake to think of heaven as a place where individual souls are milling about in roughly the same form as their incarnate versions walked the earth. Our souls survive physical death not in material bodies, but in glorified, spiritual bodies, and I think it's fair to say that nobody has any idea what that will be like, any more than we can have any idea of what it would be like to be a bat. The hope is sensible, but beyond that it is difficult to tell how sensible the rejection of limbo really is.