I believe the 89% that Kelley mentioned is the number of those annullments that went through after they were already okayed by the local priest and then accepted by the tribunal.
The local priest does not 'ok' any annulment - he may help the petitioner understand the process, but he has no part in it unless that priest happens to be part of the tribunal itself. The Court accepts the petition based on the information we receive at the time - and, personally, I set that bar pretty high - which can drive my auditors up a wall when I tell them we need more information before I accept a petition. But they understand my thought process - why should we go through the entire proceeding if we know from the start that the marriage will not be declared invalid?
And thank you, Deacon Cameron, for laying out the difference between a sacramental marriage and a valid marriage.
The next misunderstanding to be cleared up is that annulments are 'granted.' A grant, in canonical terms, is a favorable reply to a request - like, may I keep the Blessed Sacrament in my house. A declaration of invalidity is just that - it is a declaration
that the marriage was not valid from the very moment of consent.
In this declaration, the Church does not
say there was no marriage; it says that marriage was invalid - there was something wrong with the consent of one or both persons. That's why the declaration does nothing to the status of children - they are not called illegitimate, since that is a civil designation, not an ecclesiastical one.
Many people forget about a little thing we call 'free will.' Matrimony is a natural right which can be deferred for good reasons, but the couple has the right to marry. The Church normally does not deny the couple their right to marry unless there's some huge 'red flags.'
Koorosh, you also state that "perhaps the church has not done a good job at the time of marriage to insure that the marriage was for love." Love is not a prerequisite for marriage, why else would the Church approve arranged marriages?
The priest or deacon who is preparing the couple for marriage can only go by what they tell him - he can explain all the goods and properties of marriage, but if one or both don't understand it or refuse to follow what the Church teaches, but don't tell the priest/deacon that, how is he going to know?
Koorosh, you say "First I continue to think that the church needs to become stricter in granting marriages. If couples want to marry then let them marry somewhere else besides the Catholic Church! There is always the city hall!" And if a Catholic marries outside the Church without dispensation from form (which would not
be granted for a 'city hall' marriage), then that marriage is invalid.
Finally, the Church encourages reconciliation prior to a civil divorce. But if one or both parties refuse, there's nothing we can do - we can't force people to go to counseling. Again, that thing called 'free will' that God gave us.