Last night there was a comment to the effect that Universalism is heresy, undefined, but heretical nevertheless. For those for whom the Catechism of the Catholic Church is meaningful, we can settle the issue of Universalism definitively.
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."
Now, it is clear that if the Church prays for an end that end must not be impossible in itself--it may be improbable or unlikely, but to pray for that which is impossible is to lie to yourself and to God. We don't pray that night be made day or that black be made white--there's no point to it. Here we learn that the Church prays for "all men to be saved." It is clear, she believes this to be a possibility.
Now, that said, while the Church prays for this, I do not think that any individual is bound to think precisely in the same way. That is, the Church prays in HOPE, not in knowledge. She does not say that this is the way things are, only that this is a way things MAY be. Hence, if one is disinclined to the concept of universalism, if one holds reservations against it, I don't think that there is any harm there, so long as the prayers follow the HOPE of the Church.
I want to keep emphasizing, the Church has NOT said that all will be saved. In fact, I do not say this. I say only that I hope that all will be saved. I have no assurance, and indeed, I have many of the doubts expressed by others. It's just that I do have a vibrant and lively hope because of the God I have come to know and love.
The Church has not stated that universalism is a fact. She has anathematized certain forms of universalism in the past (a nod to Mr. Sullivan to acknowledge that the authority of that is questioned by some.) BUT she has not bound us all to believe that this is the end which all will come to. Instead, she binds us to the hope that it may be so--however improbable, however unlikely, we have the hope. And when we consider our God, the God of the improbable and unlikely, is it beyond Him who parted the sea and made dry land to walk on, or Him who with the consent of a Virgin brought forth the savior of the world, is it beyond this God to effect this possibility? I would say that it is not. Is it probable? Here I will simply demur and keep in my heart the hope I have--there's no point in trying your patience further.