If you haven’t heard, here’s Father Barron endorsing Balthasarian universalism, and here’s Michael Voris criticizing him (h/t Mark Shea, who’s criticizing Voris criticizing Barron here, on the ground that Voris is a mean ol’ doodie-head).
Fr. Barron’s position isn’t overly convincing, amounting to essentially “God did this really great thing for us, so clearly he really really really wants us to be saved,” though I imagine his position could be fleshed out more convincingly in a book-length exposition. He also offers a pretty reductive view of the historical debate on it, overemphasizing both the importance and value of Origen’s contribution, denigrating the contribution of Augustine and Aquinas (they’re so very dark!), and ignoring the many Church fathers and prominent theologians in between who agreed with the latter position, including Sts. Theodore, Basil, Ephrem, John Chrysostom, Gregory, Anselm, and Jerome, to say nothing of the (yes, technically non-binding) many private revelations in the post-Apostolic age, including the children at Fatima, St. John Bosco, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Mary Faustina Kowalska, et al. A plain reading of Scripture supports it — when asked by one man if few were saved, Christ answers in the affirmative, albeit in a way that suggests the speculation itself is unprofitable and should be avoided; and, of course, if Hell is empty, then Christ’s constant exhortations to avoid it seem profoundly useless. “But we don’t know if any particular person is in Hell!” cries the universalist sympathizer, his nose poking over the top of the latest Rahner anthology. Which might be a good argument if the anti-universalist position consisted of rattling off a laundry list of damned souls with theological certainty; but there’s a big gulf between lots of people are in Hell and I know exactly who is in Hell.
A second thought: in an earlier post, I had speculated about the Church’s tendency, especially in the postconciliar age, to fixate on the least pernicious and least pervasive evil and dedicate so much of its energy to rooting it out. So, for instance, Pope Francis tells us we must stop talking about sin and instead proclaim its treatment, mercy, even though virtually no one anywhere talks about sin anymore. Likewise, today, nearly no one believes in Hell and so few people (so often including this wretched sinner) take it seriously, yet we continue to hear baseless theological speculation about how “reasonable” it is that Hell might be empty, against the near-unanimous witness of Scripture and the saints. And this as we begin preparing for Advent, a penitential season where our minds turn once again to the contemplation of the Four Last Things! Add “timing” to the list of things the Church just can’t seem to get right.
Go check out the comments at Shea’s blog, by the way, for a good example of the kind of absurd linguistic waterboarding necessary to make the universalist position even minimally tenable. You’ll also see plenty examples of the new Pharisaism — i.e., accusing other people of old Pharisaism — endemic to those poor souls mired in the twin fever swamps of German existentialism and “pastoral” “psychology.”