Did Incest Become the Reason for Schism and Is Incest Criminalized in Russia?

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On May 26, Georgia and World, a pro-Kremlin online media outlet, published an article by Davit Mkheidze about confrontation between the United States and Russia, as well as a loyal attitude towards Russia. The article also discusses the Great Schism of 1054. The author claims that one of the reasons behind disagreement between Catholic and Orthodox Christians was a marriage allowed by the Catholic Church between relatives – something strongly opposed by Orthodox Christians.

Davit Mkheidze also claims that incest no longer surprises anyone in the West and some “super democratic” countries have even legalized it.

On May 29, Davit Mkheidze’s article was published by another pro-Kremlin media outlet News Front.

The claim as if allowing a marriage between blood relatives by the Catholic Church became the reason behind the East–West Schism is groundless. The Roman Catholic Church was actively fighting against incest or marriage between blood relatives. The Schism was caused by a lot of other reasons, including theological, political and historical ones; however, the issue of marriage between blood relatives was not listed among them. Mkheidze’s another claim about legalization of incest in the West is also false, because incest is prohibited by law in the majority of European countries and the United States. Meanwhile, incest between adults is not criminalized in Russia.

Myth Detector offers an analysis by Guram Lursmanashvili, a theology expert, about the causes of schism and the attitude of the Catholic Church towards incest:

The cases of incest have been reported in all epochs and civilizations, including Western Europe, Eastern Europe or other societies. Moreover, such cases have numerously been described in the Bible. But it is noteworthy that the Roman Catholic Church (and generally, medieval Western European civilization) was actively fighting against incest or marriage between blood relatives. To back up my words, I will offer specific historical facts:

  • The Penitential of Cummean, an Irish penitential, presumably composed c. 650 by an Irish monk named Cummean, envisaged a three-year punishment and lengthy repentance for the involvement in incest.
  • Liutprand, King of the Lombards (712-744) refers to Christian laws in order to prohibit a marriage with a daughter-in-law or a cousin. Aistulf, another King of the Lombards (749-756) ruled to break up any illegal marriage involving incest.
  • The Visigothic Code also called Lex Visigothorum provides information to prove that according to this law, not only “illegal marriages” should be terminated, but the people involved in them should be subject to a lengthy repentance and sent to monastery.
  • ·he Paenitentiale Theodori (dated ca. 700), an early medieval penitential handbook based on the judgements of Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury, envisages a 15-year punishment for people accused of incest. Roman Penitential dated 830 prohibits a marriage with a stepchild, mother-in-law, widow of an uncle or sister of a wife.

To prove that the Roman Catholic Church has not changed its opinion regarding incest in the post-Schism period either, we offer a fragment from Decretum Gratiani, a collection of canon law compiled and written in the 12th century, according to which:

“So, although evangelical and apostolic commandments do not forbid them, unions with blood relatives must still be avoided because they are interdicted by ecclesiastical legislation.”

Davit Mkheidze says that “unfortunately, the present world is ruled, both politically and economically, by the products of incest and probably, that brought the humankind to LGBT perversion.” Besides the fact that such interpretation is historically incorrect, we should not neglect specific biblical facts, proving that there were numerous cases of incest between cousins and even closer relatives, but it has not led “the humankind to LGBT perversion.” For example, the Book of Genesis (38.18) reads that Judah was an unwitting accomplice in a forbidden sexual encounter with his daughter-in-law. The same Judah was included by Matthew the Apostle in the genealogy of Jesus (1.3). Biblical Lot had a sexual encounter with his two daughters (19.37-38), but Peter the Apostle called him “Righteous Lot” (19.37-38).
The Great Schism came about due to a complex mix of religious disagreements and political conflicts. Among official or unofficial causes, we can point out the following:
  • Political tensions between Rome and Constantinople (that definitely affected the church developments);
  • The Filioque controversy (the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, or the Father and the Son?);
  • The issue of using unleavened bread for the sacrament of communion;
  • Papal primacy;
  • The issue of clerical beards;
  • The problem of jurisdiction (whom this or that church or monastery belonged to);
  • Aspects of clerical marriage;
  • The question of fasting on Saturdays during the Great Lent;
  • Personal character traits of Patriarch Michael Cerularius and Cardinal Humbert (whose active efforts led to the schism).

These causes, however, do not involve the issue of marriage between blood relatives. Detailed information about the causes of the Great Schism is provided in “Schism or Alienation” by John Spiteris and Grigor Larentzakis

Incest is punished in the majority of European countries, not in Russia 

Disinformation related to incest has long been circulating in Georgia. By doing so, pro-Russian groups are trying to incite anti-Western sentiments.

Davit Mkheidze’s claim, as if incest is legal in the West, is manipulative, because incest is punished in the United States and the majority of European countries, including Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Poland, Estonia and Czech Republic.

Pro-Russian actors are frequently spreading disinformation about the legality of incest in the West. In Russia, consensual sex between adults, including incest, is not a crime. However, under the Family Code of Russia, persons who are related lineally, siblings, half-siblings, and a stepparent and a stepchild may not marry.
See Myth Detector’s article on the topic:


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Topic: Religion
Violation: Disinformation
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