Catholics don’t use individual passages as the basis for moral decisions or theological/doctrinal arguments. We have to look at the passage in it’s context. We look at the entire story.
Israel had just been split into two nations. Formerly there were twelve tribes, but ten succeeded from the nation to form their own nation. In the process, they completely abandoned God and all of his commandment. They completely abandoned temple worship, and would in fact, eventually dissapear into oblivion.
Previously, Solomon had been a very wise king, but also a very harsh king. He didn’t get all that wealth and all those wives and build the temple by sitting around doing nothing. He drove his people hard, and made them work. Solomon was a stern taskmaster. When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam promised to be an even harsher taskmaster, saying, “My father chastized you with whips, I will chasize you with scorpions” and insisting that his own pinky finger was larger than his father Solomon’s genitalia. I’m not kidding. Look it up.
So the ten northern tribes basically told him to go screw himself. The split off and formed their own nation - Israel - while the tribe of Judah and Benjamin formed the nation of Judah. And the king of the northern nation of Israel set up two golden calves to worship, one of which was in Bethel where the bear incident took place.
Elisha had just taken on the mantle of Elijah and so had probably taken a nazarite vow and shaved his head. He was effectively consecrated to God. That is why the kids taunted him with, calling him “Baldy.” And the Israelite people of Bethel were mixed in with pagans who worshipped other gods, including the god Molech. Many parents sacrificed their children to Molech. Children were often forced into cult prostition and incest was common. This is why Moses had so many commandments about this type of behavior in Leviticus.
So the bottom line is that some pagan kids who’s parents were likely to prostitute or sacrifice, these disrespected the most prominent prophet in Israel/Judah and God’s own mesenger. If these kids wern’t sacrificed to Molech or turned into boy prostitutes, then they would have grown up to be pagans who did the same to their own kids. Elisha cursed them. God did the rest.
Remember that Elijah and Elisha were in “Enemy territory.” They were prophets who preached to the rebellious northern tribes of Israel. They preached Gods’ word to the ten northern tribes who had turned from the rightful king placed over them by God They had abandoned temple worship and started worshipping all kinds of gods… They had completely turned from God and rejected God. The ten tribes of the north would eventually be taken it exile by Babylon and dissapear into oblivion as they took on the customs and religion of their captors.
God is a loving God. But God establishes covenants with those he loves, and every covenant comes with conditions. We are under one such covenant now. We have to keep up our end of the agreement. Covenants come with blessings for those who keep their end of the agreement, but also with curses if we don’t stay true to the agreement. We are under the covenant of Christ’s blood, and there are blessings and curses associated with that, heaven and hell. The covenant God made with Moses was for blessing and life, or curse and death. That’s what the kids got. That’s what the ten tribes got. They knew the covenant and that they were breaking it.
And the implications for breaking the covenant now are more than just being attacked by bears. The curse is eternity in Hell. We are still under covenant. That has not changed. God is a loving God, but that there are consequences for our own actions has not changed.