As you know, I am neither a theologian nor a scholar nor an academic nor a catechist. I can only answer in a very limited way based on my own understanding, which may, of course, be very flawed. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I will be able to answer more completely.
1. "Is the Catechism wrong?"--I doubt it.
2. "Catholics in fact, contrary to the Catechism, know
that unbaptized children go to heaven because they are incapable of self-exclusion."--We *do*?? I thought only God knows who goes to heaven and who does not. But, what do I know?
3. "But does self-exclusion apply to humans who have not reached the age of reason?"---Don't know.
4. "And why does the Catechism speak, incorrectly it seems, only of hope
if it is really a fact?"---Don't know. You are the one who claims it to be fact, and pronounces the Catechism to be incorrect.
Does the Orthodox Church know
definitively what happens to unbaptized infants who die?
I do not understand. The Catechism says that Catholic may hope that unbaptized children go to heaven.
Is the Catechism wrong?
Is it not really a question of hoping at all? Catholics in fact, contrary to the Catechism, know that unbaptized children go to heaven because they are incapable of self-exclusion.
But does self-exclusion apply to humans who have not reached the age of reason?
And why does the Catechism speak, incorrectly it seems, only of hope if it is really a fact?
Well...the Church has teachings on many things, but there are areas that are not dogmatically defined where theologians may adopt varying opinions. An example of this would be the fate of unbaptized infants.
Catholic theologians, now that Limbo has been discarded, do not know what happens with unbaptized children (those under the age of reason, usually placed at 7.) The Catechism para 1261 says that Catholics may hope for their salvation. But one imagines that that still leaves open the possibility that they go to hell.
Here is the full paragraph:
"As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,"64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism."
And here is what the Catechism says about hell:
1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."612 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.613 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."
1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.614 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"615 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"616
1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.
1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."618
Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."619
1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;620 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":621
Father, accept this offering
from your whole family.
Grant us your peace in this life,
save us from final damnation,
and count us among those you have chosen.622
While I would grant that there is a "possibility" that those unbaptized children might go to hell, unless they were culpable of "a willful turning away from God...", I would venture to say that that possibility is fairly remote. It should be clear from reading what the Catechism says, that certain conditions must be met before any soul is condemned to hell. As no one but God actually knows who is condemned to hell and who is not, to say that we do not know is not only truthful, but totally honest. Or so I would think.
Does the Orthodox Church know definitively what happens to unbaptized infants who die? In other words, is there a formal Orthodox teaching about it?