Most would find it unbelievable that the Catholic Church has never definitively claimed that anyone is in hell. Not Judas, Not Hitler, Not Stalin, Not Bin Laden.
Now that also doesn’t mean that none of these people aren’t in hell either. It’s just that we can’t claim definitive proof.
The Christian Century blog took up that topic and David Heim makes some interesting points including this summary of Hans Urs Von Bathasar’s teaching on hell.
In his book Dare We Hope ‘That All Men Be Saved’? the Catholic theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar does not deny the existence of hell or argue for anything like universalism, but he does show how nuanced the discussion of hell can be even within the parameters of strict orthodoxy. Balthasar argues that the salvation of all is the will of God (as scripture says) and that it is proper for the church to pray that God’s will be done. Therefore, he concludes, if the church is truly acting out of love and hope, it can and perhaps must pray that all will saved. (emphases mine)
Balthasar’s approach would, I suspect, lead to the same practical approach to the world as (Rob) Bell’s assertion that God’s love “wins.”
Perhaps the best wisdom on hell is summed up by this old axiom: Only an ass would deny the existence of hell, and only an ox would pretend to know who is in it.
Indeed. And that’s exactly what we’ve been saying all week.