If you were a member of the population’s majority (serfs and short-on-cash freemen), you were feeling left out. You couldn’t afford books and you couldn’t read them and you couldn’t understand the language they’re written in. You went to church but couldn’t understand what was being read out of the Bible.
Devout Christians wanted to connect with their Savior but it seemed like the only people who could talk to Jesus were the clergy, because they spoke Latin. The priests must have believed that they alone had access to G-d. That was a problem.*
Religion concerns itself with the afterlife: where do we go when we die? The Bible tells us we each are a soul with a body attached. Because we have weak, material, worldly bodies, we’re all prone to sin. In the Christian Church, sin is to disobey the Ten Commandments or to disobey the teaching of Christ. If you haven’t properly confessed and atoned for a sin you committed, the sin could keep you out of Heaven. The Church had a process whereby a Christian confessed sin and was told what he had to do (prayer and/or good works) to get his soul back on track.** But beginning in the thirteenth century, churches were selling indulgences—people gave money to the church to make sure they got into Heaven right away after they died.
So once again, a small handful of elites were in sole control of communication—this time it was communication between human beings and G-d. The illiterate shmos had little access to that communication. Not everyone in the clergy was happy about that. Just as we saw with the ancient Egyptian scribes when the alphabet hit, big things were about to shake loose.
* I’m a Presbyterian who enjoys going to other people’s churches now and then. I have to tell you, a Catholic mass in Latin (maybe it was here https://sites.google.com/site/unavocepittsburgh/latinmasspittsburgh) is an almost transcendental experience. I didn’t understand the particulars of what was said—anyone can figure out the obvious bits—but it was moving. I guess I’m saying my take on what’s coming up next is complicated.
**As usual, I’m simplifying this topic.
Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.