I have come across, in Denzinger, pronouncements by the Councils of Florence and Lyons that say, in effect, that unbaptized infants go into hell (or limbo conceived as being part of hell). How do these teachings of the Councils square with other teachings that suggest the possibility of salvation for unbaptized infants? Here are the statements,
“The souls of those who die in actual mortal sin, or only in original sin, immediately descend into hell.” ( Denzinger # 693 )"
" The souls of those who die in mortal sin, or with original sin only, however, immediately descend to hell, yet to be punished with different punishments." (Denzinger # 464)"
From the Catechism of the Council of Trent,
" If then through the transgression of Adam, children inherit original sin, with still stronger reason can they attain through Christ our Lord grace and justice that they may reign in life. This however, cannot be effected otherwise than through baptism. Pastors therefore should inculate the absolute necessity of administering baptism to infants, and of gradually forming their minds to piety by education in the Christian religion… The faithful are earnestly to be exhorted to take care that their children be brought to the Church , as soon as it can be done with safety, to receive solemn baptism. Since infant children have no other means of salvation except baptism, we may easily understand how grievously those persons sin who permit them to remain without the grace of the sacrament longer than necessity may require, particularly at an age so tender as to be exposed to numberless dangers of death."
And from Pope Pius VI “” The doctrine which rejects as a Pelagian fable, that place of the lower regions ( which the faithful generally designate by the name of the limbo of the children ) in which the souls of those departing with the sole guilt of original sin are punished with the punishment of the condemned, exclusive of the punishment of fire, just as if, by this vary fact, that these who remove the punishment of fire introduced that middle place and state free of guilt and of punishment between the kingdom of God and eternal damnation, such as that about which the Pelagians idly talk , - false, rash, injurious to Catholic schools."
Now I know one could possibly make the argument that unbaptized infants can be “baptized” by desire or blood (for example the Holy Innocents). But it seems to me that the argument of those who reject this opinion is strong. The Holy Innocents died as martyrs for Christ. Baptism of desire was always intended to apply to those who were catechumens who desired baptism but died before reaching the font (hence they had faith).
It seems difficult for me to believe that these Councils and Popes intended to include a kind of baptism of desire for unbaptized infants, but perhaps there is an argument I haven’t seen. Does anyone know of a good argument that can reconcile these conciliar and papal teachings with the current Church teaching on the matter?