Make no mistake – hell is real, and some people really will choose to spend eternity there. The key word here, however, is “choose.” It is God’s intention and plan for everyone to live with Him forever in heaven. Some people, however, will freely choose to persist in mortal sin and will not accept God’s merciful love. They have made the choice to separate themselves from God forever.
We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: “He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.” CCC 1033