A: The short answer is “no” but this is a very complex issue, I will have to break this question down into several parts which will be answered over the next few weeks.
First, we must look at the Catholic understanding of marriage. (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1638-1654):
…the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God’s fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.
A marriage which results from the free consent of the spouses and its consummation is indissoluble. It is not that the Church does not want to reach out to couples estranged for a variety of reasons but that it cannot dissolve a valid marriage precisely because it is part of Divine Law (God’s plan) and the Church does not have the authority to do so. “What God has joined, let no one separate.”
So, if the Church does not have the authority to dissolve a marriage, what is an annulment? I will try to answer this question in two weeks.