For there is not under the cope of heaven a condition of men out of which you’ll find persons fitter to do and handle all things than those who by divine prescience, eternal predestination, have applied themselves to the study of the holy decretals.
Would you choose a worthy emperor, a good captain, a fit general in time of war, one that can well foresee all inconveniences, avoid all dangers, briskly and bravely bring his men on to a breach or attack, still be on sure grounds, always overcome without loss of his men, and know how to make a good use of his victory? Take me a decretist. No, no, I mean a decretalist. Ho, the foul blunder, whispered Epistemon.
Would you, in time of peace, find a man capable of wisely governing the state of a commonwealth, of a kingdom, of an empire, of a monarchy; sufficient to maintain the clergy, nobility, senate, and commons in wealth, friendship, unity, obedience, virtue, and honesty? Take a decretalist.
Would you find a man who, by his exemplary life, eloquence, and pious admonitions, may in a short time, without effusion of human blood, conquer the Holy Land, and bring over to the holy Church the misbelieving Turks, Jews, Tartars, Muscovites, Mamelukes, and Sarrabonites? Take me a decretalist.
What makes, in many countries, the people rebellious and depraved, pages saucy and mischievous, students sottish and duncical? Nothing but that their governors and tutors were not decretalists.
But what, on your conscience, was it, do you think, that established, confirmed, and authorized those fine religious orders with whom you see the Christian world everywhere adorned, graced, and illustrated, as the firmament is with its glorious stars? The holy decretals.
What was it that founded, underpropped, and fixed, and now maintains, nourishes, and feeds the devout monks and friars in convents, monasteries, and abbeys; so that did they not daily and mightily pray without ceasing, the world would be in evident danger of returning to its primitive chaos? The sacred decretals.
What makes and daily increases the famous and celebrated patrimony of St. Peter in plenty of all temporal, corporeal, and spiritual blessings? The holy decretals.
What made the holy apostolic see and pope of Rome, in all times, and at this present, so dreadful in the universe, that all kings, emperors, potentates, and lords, willing, nilling, must depend upon him, hold of him, be crowned, confirmed, and authorized by him, come thither to strike sail, buckle, and fall down before his holy slipper, whose picture you have seen? The mighty decretals of God.
I will discover you a great secret. The universities of your world have commonly a book, either open or shut, in their arms and devices; what book do you think it is? Truly, I do not know, answered Pantagruel; I never read it. It is the decretals, said Homenas, without which the privileges of all universities would soon be lost. You must own that I have taught you this; ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!