Laicization

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Laicization, also defrocking, is an action within the Orthodox Church whereby the rights are removed of members of the clergy to exercise the functions of their offices. In the process of laicization, or defrocking, the status of ordination is completely removed. All sacred actions, beginning from the time of laicization, of a former cleric are normally considered invalid.

Laicization may come as a result of a personal request for removal from the Holy Orders, or as an ecclesiastical punishment. In the first case, very often, the cleric may ask to be laicized in order to enter a second marriage after the divorce or the death of the spouse. In this case, the man remains in good standing with the Church as a layman but is no longer a member of the clergy.

According to canonical procedure, a member of the clergy, who is found guilty of violation of ecclesiastical discipline, can be suspended by the ruling bishop from exercising all clerical functions. If he disregards his suspension and continues to serve or does not repent of his actions, he may be permanently deposed from the Holy Orders. Such a forced laicization or removal from Holy Orders (defrocking) is a form of ecclesiastical punishment imposed in accordance with canonical procedures of those clergy who has been found guilty of an infringement of a sacred vow, unrepentant heresy, breaking of canon law, or violating ecclesiastical discipline. Strictly speaking, deposition can be appealed to the ecclesiastical court, but, in modern practice, the bishop's decision is usually final. Laicization proceedings of hierarchs is normally conducted by an ecclesiastical court of hierarchs.

Laicization as an ecclesiastical punishment may carry with it excommunication, that is placing the former cleric 'out of communion' from the church for a certain period, or indefinitely, but still a member of the church, or with the anathema, that is expulsion from the church. Such actions are usually imposed by the decision of a synod of bishops or a ecclesiastical court. In such cases, this not only defrocks the former cleric but also banishes him from entering an Orthodox church, receiving the Eucharist and other sacraments, or being blessed by a priest.

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