But there was another factor of non-feudal origin and character that the warrior class failed to absorb or to conquer, for us the most important of all, the Roman Catholic Church. We cannot enter into a discussion of the extremely intricate relations of the medieval Church with the feudal powers. The one essential point to grasp is that the Church was not simply an organ of feudal society but an organism distinct from feudal society that always remained a power in its own right. However closely allied with, or dependent upon, feudal kings and lords it may at times have been, however near it may have come to defeat and to being harnessed into the service of the warrior class, it never resigned its own authority and never became the instrument of that or any other class.

Since the Church was always able not only to assert itself but also to wage successful war upon the feudal powers, this fact should be too obvious to require explicit statement, were it not that historiography, inspired by a popular version of Marxian sociology, may easily create the impression—to put it in the crudest possible way—that medieval thought was merely the ideology of a landholding warrior class, verbalized by its chaplains. This impression would be wrong not only from the standpoint of those who refuse to accept the Marxian sociology of ideas, but also from the standpoint of Marx himself, even if we chose to interpret the Catholic system of thought as an ideology, it would still remain the ideology of the clergy and never merge with that of the warrior class. It is important to keep this in mind because of the practically complete monopoly of learning that the Catholic Church enjoyed until the Renaissance. This monopoly was due primarily to the spiritual authority of the Church. But it was greatly reinforced by the conditions of those ages in which there was neither room nor security for professional scholars except within a convent. In consequence, almost all ‘intellectuals’ of those times were either monks or friars. Let us briefly consider some implications of this.