Take some time to read an article I wrote at Pilgrim, “Atheist Field Hospital?”
It is fashionable these days in the Catholic Church to talk about accompanying and integrating all different categories of persons whom the Church has allowed to linger on the margins in the past. Those who advocate such approaches do so largely because they see it as pastorally effective. The logic goes something like, “lower the bar far enough, and those who had felt excluded by this or that discipline of the Church will come in.” The doors should be open to all who are seeking God in good conscience. This theory holds an embedded assumption that clearly articulated doctrine and rigorous discipline drive people away from religious belief and practice.
As someone who has actually been a pastor of souls, I have reservations about such an approach. In my experience, it is hopelessly subjective and confusing for both the shepherd and the sheep. Seeking God with a good conscience necessarily includes the willingness to obey an authority higher than oneself. The process of embracing such obedience may be messy and complicated, but it remains indispensible. It is indispensible because worshipping God in spirit and truth is impossible without obedience.