When marriages go up in smoke!
I am not a doctor of the law and my Italian instincts at times sees the law as good but flexibility is needed in some circumstances. To use a driving analogy: if you are downtown at 2 AM and there are red lights and no one in sight, a good Italian, like me, will stop, look for cops and if none go.
It should be stated that in many downtown areas after 12 AM until 6 AM traffic lights blink red, which is like a four way stop sign. But I digress.
But there are many cases where the Church needs a good pastoral theology concerning the complexity of marriage, civil divorce and remarriage without an annulment.
This is one example. Years ago I knew a Catholic woman from Europe who had three illicit marriages, all of them without Catholic recognition. All ended in divorce, except the third one which was going strong. Technically her case is easy, lack of Catholic form, yet she has no contact with former spouses and doesn't know where they are in Europe or China or wherever. So the lack of form paperwork won't work for her.
Her third husband has three previous marriages. He isn't a Catholic. His first marriage was the first for both and both were protestants, so technically that is the valid marriage in the eyes of the Church. But he divorced her and married two others and is fourth wife is the one I describe above.
The fact is that two previous marriages took place and ended in divorce while the first wife was still living. He is currently "illicitly" married to his Catholic wife I describe above.
Since his first marriage was still recognized by the Catholic Church even though a civil divorce was granted and he legally married two others, plus his now current Catholic wife while the first wife was alive, the first wife died last year. So the second and third marriages can be handled by the ex spouses
cooperating and without a full annulment procedure and a death certificate presented for the first wife
indicating the date of death.
So technically all he needs to do is paperwork on the second and third marriage, but the ex non Catholic spouses won't cooperate!
Technically, since his first wife is deceased, he is free to have has marriage validated in the Catholic Church to his current Catholic wife, with two previous marriages, but never in the Catholic Church. But technicalities prevent the proper annulment or lack of form cases from going forward.
A pastoral discernment must take place, especially since the Catholic spouse desperately wants to return to Holy Communion!
Finally, just as Pope Francis has streamed lined the annulment procedure, I think there must be a very easy process for non-Catholics who need annulments, especially non Catholics who married a non Catholic but subsequently their spouse wants to become Catholic but not the non Catholic with previous marriage(s). Can't a pastoral solution be discerned without an annulment?
A pastoral accommodation for Protestants and other non Catholics is quite needed in my most humble opinion meaning just proving that the non Catholic did not believe in marriage as a Sacrament, believed in divorce and thus lacked the Catholic Church's belief about the Sacrament of Marriage.