One reason for the priests strong arming the populace, may have been a directive from St. Augustine (354-430 C.E.), Bishop of Hippo, relating to original sin.
Pelagius (355-425 C.E.), a monk from Britain, had a different philosophy. During his life, his teachings believed man was basically a good and moral person and not affected by the fall from grace when Adam and Eve ate the apple. He thereby negated the concept of original sin.
Additionally, Pelagianism believed man can have salvation without an intermediary. Priests and the Church were unnecessary for salvation.
Because the teachings were spreading in Europe, there was some fear that these teachings would also spread to include Ireland and Britain. Exactly what the Church authorities did not want. Things could get out of control.
Many of these “heresies” were incompatible with the evolving beliefs of Church Doctrine and St. Augustine’s earlier teachings concerning his belief that man was held captive by the original sin of Adam and Eve.
The Council of Carthage (418 C.E.) condemned Pelagianism as heresy. This finding was confirmed at the Council of Ephesus (431 C.E.)
There were more ‘councils’, and they continued to revise, change, and/or eliminate Jesus’ original teachings. Many, formerly accepted principles, were made ‘anathema’, which turned the previously faithful believers into heretics if they did not renounce them.
For example, there were several Councils of Nicea (325 C.E.). The many subsequent councils and synods determined laws and doctrines. They also decided who and what would be included in the Bible (New Testament).
Other conflicting issues included The Trinity, The Will of Jesus, the conflict between the Eastern (Constantinople) and Western (Roman) Christians.
These were only a few of the conflicts and other practices the church used to establish its authority. The use of fear, however, was it’s most powerful.
It is my understanding that gospels (or lessons) written by women, were eliminated completely. That is very evident when thumbing through a modern bible. However, some of these writings have been uncovered over the years.
There is much more to learn, and if you are curious you can do your own investigations. Then you can make your own decisions. I found it very interesting.