A report in the Sunday Herald Sun claims that Nicole Kidman has been told by “a priest” that if she were to marry again, she “could still have a church service”. Now, I very much doubt that this “priest” had any real authority to make such a claim, and really, no-one ever knows if they may obtain an annulment until the declaration of nullility has been made by the Tribunal, but he is probably right.
Few are aware that divorced Catholics who are returning to the Church and who either are remarried or who want to remarry have an “escape clause” that makes an annulment of their first marriage a fair certainty.
Canon law, which establishes the validity of any marriage, requires that a member of the Church may not marry a non-Catholic or get married in a non-Catholic faith community without dispensation from the Church from the obligation to marry a Catholic in the Catholic Church.
When a Catholic ceases to practice their Catholic faith (as Kidman did by becoming a Scientologist) and marries outside of the Church (as Kidman did to Cruise) they rarely bother to seek the Church’s authority to do so (one presumes Kidman and Cruise did not both to either).
Therefore, the marriages of many non-practicing Catholics lack proper canonical form and are therefore automatically “null and void”. Upon their return to the Catholic fold such marriages would need to be regularised. If the returning Catholic is (like Kidman) divorced, she will be granted an annulment (virtually) automatically, leaving her free to remarry in the Church.
Non-Catholics who marry non-Catholics outside of the Catholic Church and then become Catholic do not have the benefit of such an “escape clause”. The Church graciously deigns to acknowledge the full validity of marriage which has been celebrated between a baptised separated brother and a baptised separated sister in a non-Catholic ecclesial community without the permission of the Church.
The upshot of which is that it is generally much easier for divorcees to remarry in the Catholic Church if they were non-practicing Catholics at the time of their first marriage than if they were fully practicing baptised non-Catholics. Go figure.