Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote a book by this title and Bp. Barron seems to accept his thesis; so what should we make of it? Is there but an empty hell and will all men eventually come to detest their sins and thus ask for pardon and rely on God’s infinite mercy in their regard simply because wishes that all men be saved? After all, Paul within the scriptures does write the following:

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

1 I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men:

For kings, and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity.

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour,

Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus:

Who gave himself a redemption for all, a testimony in due times.

God obviously wishes for the salvation of all as we all should. For who does not pray for the salvation of the souls of their loved ones and friends? Who, for the love Christ, wishes the torments of hell on anyone who god created in His image and likeness and loves with a supernatural love all souls created as a father loves his own children and wishes the best for them?

But is it the same thing to hope and pray for the salvation of all men and in the sense of the Theological Virtue of Hope or ‘expectation’ that all men will be saved? Should we hold an expectancy that all men are saved and that hell is but only an empty place or state of being; a reality that exists but is completely harrowed of the damned?

Personally, it seems to be a most difficult quandary for those who might take that leap. For we know that we are to pray for all souls to escape the torments of hell for love God and His love of our souls. But is that the same as expectantly bridging such as great chasm as this and holding out false hope that hell is empty of souls? For if we do that, then it seems to me that Christ and the rest of Catholic Teaching and the gospels are misleading at the least or completely vague and ambiguous. And at the worst it points to a Christ who is self-contradictory not to speak of His Church that has continuously taught definitively on hell for 2000 years.

If the latter were true, then what else has Christ and His Church taught, that we find repugnant personally; that we can chalk up to ambiguity or outright contradiction? Can we believe anything at all that we have been definitively taught or is our personal truth the only truth; a truth resides purely within the eyes of each beholder? Is is subjective or relative to what we accept and don’t accept from the teachings of the faith? Are we each the arbiters of faith?

Does Heaven then exist? or purgatory? our personal judgement? the general judgement?

I pray for all souls who are passing from this life and who have died and hope that they reach the beatific vision as promised. But this hope that I hold is a worldly hope or wish and only right and just and I would hope as well that others will pray for me at the hour of my own death. But do I wish that Christ were lying or contradicting Himself? Theological hope is a more detached and rational hope that all that Christ and His Church are infallible in their depiction and that there is no trickery involved. It is not shrouded in fog and confusion.  For if it is then what is left to guide us in this life and what is there to hope for?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the following about our own personal hope, the virtue of hope in this regard:

1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.” She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:

It seems our hope good and just but that the outcome of our hope is ‘contingent’ on the way we live our lives. For the Catechism also states the following:

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.” 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.

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; 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”:

Our Lady of Fatima would have been cruel indeed had She shown the young children of Fatima the torments of hell; but that is exactly what she did. If nobody was there then why would she impress upon these children the need to pray for the souls of all men to seek repentance and come to Christ and to escape the ravages of hell?

Some have mentioned the Fatima Prayer as a counter to this: “O My Jesus, forgive us our sins. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.” However, I would contend that this is a prayer for those who are living in the world and that they might receive the grace to avoid hell.

What do you think?