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Last Updated: Monday, 26 June 2006, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
How did Nicole Kidman re-marry in a Catholic church?
The Magazine answers...

Nicole Kidman
The bride arriving at St Patrick's College in Sydney

How did Nicole Kidman, one-time spouse of Tom Cruise, get re-married in a Catholic church if she didn't have an annulment? Clue: she wasn't actually married before.

Nicole Kidman's wedding to country singer Keith Urban in Sydney at the weekend drew plenty of media attention.

But some Catholics will have looked on perplexed at how the former bride of actor Tom Cruise managed to tie the knot for a second time, in a Catholic church.

It was widely reported in the run up to the weekend wedding that Ms Kidman had received an annulment for her previous marriage - the Catholic Church's procedure for allowing a follower to wed again.

Father Paul Coleman, who conducted the latest nuptials, was said to have advised the Oscar-winning actress on the dissolution.

In fact, Kidman didn't need an annulment for one simple reason: in the eyes of the Catholic Church her 10-year union with Tom Cruise, a renowned Scientologist, never happened.

A feature to the BBC News Magazine - aiming to answer some of the questions behind the headlines
The original wedding was performed in the Church of Scientology and wasn't recognised by the Catholic faith.

The divorce granted to the couple in 2001 was a legal rather than religious procedure for Kidman.

So Kidman would only have had to have obtained a licence from the Catholic Church saying that she was legally free to marry and that the Church had not recognised her first marriage.

Not recognised

"The Catholic Church sets down requirements to have a valid Catholic marriage. In the case of Nicole's first marriage, those requirements were not fulfilled," said Father Coleman, who married Kidman and Urban.

Pope Benedict
The Vatican is unhappy about annulment rates in the US
Kidman had dabbled with Scientology and Father Coleman talked of her Catholic wedding in terms of a spiritual homecoming.

Annulment is, nevertheless, controversial in some Catholic circles. How can the Church rule a marriage never really happened, especially if it's been a long one and generated children?

The Catholic Church began to make annulments easier to get in the 1970s, adding a category of "psychological grounds", which includes "lack of due discretion" - in other words, an applicant might claim they'd not fully appreciated the responsibilities of marriage.

Today, this category - which also takes in "psychological incapacity assuming the obligations" - is the main grounds upon which annulments are granted.


Lack of due discretion centres on the question of what it is that couples are consenting to when they agree to marry.

Priests say considering a petition for annulment on such grounds is very complex - and requests for annulments are often turned down (in which case an applicant cannot remarry in a Catholic church).

While many in the Church argue priests should be trying to discern a "grave" lack of discretion, some argue that priests, particularly those in the US, are too easy.

According to the Holy See, 43,153 straightforward annulments were granted worldwide, almost 29,000 of which were issued in north America in 2003. This compares with 511 in Great Britain and 304 across Ireland. Many of these were later overturned by the Vatican.

Rome has long been concerned that priests in the US are handing out too many annulments.

The Vatican argues that American culture demands maximum self-fulfilment and that includes what can be expected from a marriage. As a result, more annulments are granted in the US, leaving Rome worried that the Americans are, essentially, letting divorce in through the back door.

For Kidman, however, such difficult questions never needed to be answered.

Add your comments using the form below

Despite the technicalities of the earlier marriage between Nicole and Tom not requiring an annulment, the real question is: what does this marriage in a Roman Catholic church means to Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban? A true commitment to the sacrament of marriage in the traditions of the Catholic church? A real spiritual homecoming? Sometimes one wonders how such 'showbiz' R.C. marriages happen, and how people seem to get round the teachings of the church. Perhaps a theologian can explain? Many ordinary Catholic mortals don't have such an easy road. I wish Nicole and Keith a long and happy marriage ... and hope that we won't have a 'showbiz R.C. divorce' in a few months/years based on a theological nicety.
Carol, Oxfordshire, England

Yet again, another serious point of discussion that only seems to surface in the media when it is attached to a celebrity.
Paul Browne, Muswell Hill, England

If the church does not recognise the first marriage then surely that should be good enough. Nicole has finally someone to make a lasting religious committment with so why don't we leave them in peace for their happy ever after. I certainly wish the happy couple well.
Mel, Oxford

The flexibility of theology increases directly in proportion to the wealth of the petitioner. This isn't a feature of just Roman Catholicism, or even Christianity. As L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology allegedly said: "I'd like to start a religion. That's where the money is."
Des, London, UK

I for one welcome any act of disregard or disparagement that the 'church' of Scientology is subjected to!
Vincent Clambake, Leipzig, Germany

Celebrities are misusing their positions as role models to stage public mockeries of marriage. The Catholic church should practice what it preaches and make it more difficult for marriages to disintegrate, instead of pandering to the me-first attitude in America and destroying a foundation of human interaction which has endured for centuries.
Jeremy, Atlanta, Georgia

Hypocrisy pure and simple, rules are bent to suit the situation. It proves also that money talks, even to the Vatican.
David, Tintern, UK

Wow. We sure like to mind other people's business, don't we? Who you are "allowed" to love. We "ok" your love. We "forbid" your love. We "prevent" you from loving someone new. We "force" you to stay with someone that you no longer love. But you ARE fully allowed to hate anyone you so choose. An entire race of people, perhaps. Wow.
Bill, Detroit, MI, USA

This doesn't match my experience or understanding of annulment procedures. My wife is a Muslim and was going through a divorce when I met her. I am a Catholic and my wife was agreeable to a Catholic marriage. However, we had to go through the annulment process, as my wife's marriage was considered legitimate by the Church. It was a long and arduous procedure that involved a number of question/answer sessions. My wife was not becoming a Catholic - the procedure related solely to the annulment of her Islamic marriage, thereby clearing the way for us to get married under the auspices of the RC Church. Maybe it's different if you're rich and famous?
anonymous, Glasgow

A marriage is a committed relationship that should come to an end only due to death or promiscuity. The way couples get married and then divorce in months or a year is a mockery to marriage and the vows taken. It is important for celebrities to respect the institution of marriages as they are role models to a lot of youngsters.
Farai, Hull

After 10 years with Tom Cruise she deserves not only an annulment but sainthood....
fred, London

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