It is de fide that Hell exists, and it is de fide that people go there. Those who deny either fact deny the Faith.
There are theologians who, while not outright denying these dogmas, try to circumvent them by clever and deceptive phraseology about a "reasonable hope" of all men's salvation. Hans Urs von Balthasar is one of them. Though not formally promoting universalism — a heresy explicitly condemned by the Church — he offers a practical universalism that deprives the dogma on Hell (and thus sin) of all meaning.
Dr. Ralph Martin writes in his book "Will Many Be Saved?"
Since the theory of apokatastasis [universal salvation] was condemned as heretical by the Emperor Justinian and then by the Councils of Constantinople (543, 553), and since Balthasar frequently declared his intention to write and live as an orthodox Catholic theologian, he was always clear that he was not intending to teach universalism a a doctrine, but simply arguing for it as a hope, as a possibility. As this chapter proceeds, though, we will see, despite his protestations, that a strong case can be made that it is indeed what he believes, and he is, in fact, teaching it, while stopping short of holding it "formally."
One of the ways von Balthasar accomplishes this is by equivocating on the word "hope." In some places he uses the word "hope" in its weak sense, as denoting a desire for the salvation of all men — a worthy desire. But in other places he means a hope that verges on theological certitude, one in which free will is wiped out in the face of God's final choice to save all men.
Thomas Joseph White notes von Balthasar's error, whose "hope for universal salvation is not a hope that all men may receive the grace of God by which they will be saved if they consent, but that God will choose ... to overcome all human resistance effectively."
Von Balthasar's "hope" eradicates free will, as God overcomes man's choices and in a sense imposes His mercy — like it or not. But the Church has always taught that man has free will, and he can freely choose good or evil. At the end of our lives, God simply ratifies our free choice for all eternity, whether for Heaven or for Hell.
Von Balthasar seems to believe that every man, seeing God, will naturally choose Him over Hell. But this is not the thinking of the saints. Most men, they say, will choose self over God.
"It is certain that few are saved." ~St. Augustine, Father and Doctor of the Church
"There are a select few who are saved." ~St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church
"Many begin well, but there are few who persevere." ~St. Jerome, Father and Doctor of the Church
"I do not think that many priests are saved, but that those who perish are far more numerous." ~St. John Chrysostom
"The greater part of men choose to be damned rather than to love Almighty God." ~St Aphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church
"The number of the saved is as few as the number of grapes left after the vine-pickers have passed." ~St. Jean Vianney, patron saint of parish priests
"So vast a number of miserable souls perish, and so comparatively few are saved!" ~St. Philip Neri
"Many religious go straight to Hell because they do not keep their vows." ~St. Vincent Ferrer:
"There are many who arrive at the Faith, but few who are led into the heavenly kingdom." ~Pope St. Gregory the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church
"The number of the elect is so small, so small, that were we to know how small it is, we should faint away with grief." ~St. Louis de Montfort
"Bad confessions damn the majority of Christians." ~St. Teresa of Avila
Our Lord Himself makes clear that those who make it to Heaven are few, while those who choose damnation are many. "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" (Matthew 7:13–14).
The faithful ignore the words of Our Lord and His saints at their peril.
Watch the full episode: "The Download—Are All Men Saved?"