In the Roman Catholic Church, priests are sometimes laicized, either at their own request or as a punishment. It's unclear to me who exactly in the Roman Catholic has the power to laicize a priest, but in practise this seems to be done exclusively through the Vatican. Although this is rarer, Catholic bishops have been laicized as well; indeed, Fernando Lugo, Bishop of San Pedro, was laicized voluntarily in order to run for President of Paraguay, serving in this office from 2008 to 2012. Again, it seems that a bishop can't be laicised without the approval of the Pope. In either case, it is believed that ordination makes a permanent indentation on the priest's or bishop's soul; the laicisation does not annul the ordination, rather it makes it illicit for the priest or bishop in question to administer the sacraments. But that's the Roman Catholic Church. What about the Eastern Orthodox Church, about which I know much less?
I've read that, in the case of an Eastern Orthodox priest but not a bishop, his diocesan bishop has the power to laicise him. Although Eastern Orthodoxy has its own convoluted structure of archbishops, metropolitans, patriarchs, etc, the difference with Roman Catholicisim is that all Eastern Orthodox bishops are equal, at least in principle. Thus there isn't really any higher (earthly) authority to which to refer the matter, and so the diocesan bishop has the final say. Morevover, the ordination of a priest is not understood to make a permanent indentation on his soul, and therefore laicization returns him to the lay state in the fullest sense. Have I got that right?
Now what about the case of an Eastern Orthodox bishop? My ignorance here touches on two things:
- Who, if anyone, has the authority to laicize an Eastern Orthodox bishop?
- What would such a laicization be understood to accomplish?
If all bishops are essentially equal, who has the authority to laicize one? I suppose several bishops might have such authority, but how many exactly are required, and why that many and no fewer? The only potential example I can think of is the Great Moscow Synod, where Patriarch Nikon was deposed by several other patriarchs. But it's not totally clear to me whether he was returned to the state of being a simple monk in the Roman Catholic sense - i.e. he was forbidden from carrying out the duties of a priest or bishop - or whether it was understood that his status as a bishop was completely annulled.