From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1626 The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that “makes the marriage.”If consent is lacking there is no marriage.
1627 The consent consists in a “human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other”: “I take you to be my wife” – “I take you to be my husband.” This consent that binds the spouses to each other finds its fulfillment in the two “becoming one flesh.”
1628 The consent must be an act of the will of each of the contracting parties, free of coercion or grave external fear. No human power can substitute for this consent. If this freedom is lacking the marriage is invalid.
1629 For this reason (or for other reasons that render the marriage null and void) the Church, after an examination of the situation by the competent ecclesiastical tribunal, can declare the nullity of a marriage, i.e., that the marriage never existed. In this case the contracting parties are free to marry, provided the natural obligations of a previous union are discharged.
An “annulment” (more properly called a declaration of matrimonial nullity) is a declaration as described in n. 1629 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that a valid marriage never existed (even though it appeared to).
If you have questions or if you are considering starting the process of petitioning for a declaration of nullity, please ask to speak with a priest by calling the parish office at 635-7991.