Born at Tourette (Alpes-Maritimes), August 25, 1820
Taking of the habit at Marseilles June 7, 1839
Oblation at Marseilles, June 29, 1840 (no. 85)
Ordination to the priesthood at Marseilles, August 27, 1843
Expelled from the Congregation, July 25, 1844.
Léopold Ferdinand Carles was born August 25, 1820 at Tourette, diocese of Nice, a territory within the states of the King of Sardinia. He began his novitiate at Marseilles June 7, 1839 and made his oblation there on June 29, 1840. After three years of theology at the major seminary of Marseilles and at Notre-Dame de Lumières where he was at the same time professor at the minor seminary in 1842-1843, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop de Mazenod on August 27, 1843.
Immediately after his ordination, he was sent to the major seminary of Ajaccio as professor of philosophy. Hardly had he set foot in the house when Father Moreau, the superior, sent him to Vico and wrote the Founder to inform him that this priest could not remain in the house, “that he be changed is a question of life or death for the students.” As a result, on October 5, the Founder wrote to Father Semeria at Vico: “Even though I am extremely put out over the solution we had to take in regard to Father Carles, for the time being I will leave him with you at Vico, it being understood that he will work better there than elsewhere at correcting his difficult character and will not in any way disturb the peace and tranquillity that, thanks be to God, are the rule in your house. On that point, I recommend that you let him get by with nothing. How could it happen that, just after ordination and having just arrived at the task assigned to him, how could he have shown himself so defective in character that his superior should fear damaging the reputation of the Congregation were the seminarians to see him just as he has shown himself to be. I cannot tell you just how much pain this misfortune has caused me. This is an example of how defects in a member can contradict all the arrangements made by the superiors and throw consternation into the whole of their planning.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1843-1849, Oblate Writings I, vol. 10, no. 818, p. 36)
In November, Bishop de Mazenod is of the opinion that Father Moreau, under the influence of Father Lagier, has judged Father Carles “a little severely,” and advised Father Semeria to show him kindness and to do everything possible in order to help him correct that which is “disagreeable” in his character and “the peculiar ideas” to which he is too attached, etc. In December, the Founder is doubtful as to whether a request should be made for faculties to hear confession for Father Carles because of “the faulty moral systems” that he has forged for himself and “that he does not want to relinquish.” In a fine letter to Father Semeria, December 15, 1843, Bishop de Mazenod explains his way of dealing with his Oblates: “You know well that I am greatly attached to him. I had certainly given him ample proof of my confidence by sending him to a major seminary such as Ajaccio. He simply did not understand the attitude to be taken in such a delicate situation. Is it negligence, lack of judgment, a lack of virtue? I really don’t know. All that I wish is that he give some proof of the contrary in the community to which he belongs and which lives in such a good spirit, with little pretension, much simplicity, obedience and zeal. I am fearful of telling him all these things in writing because I know him to be sensitive and touchy. If I had occasion to speak with him I would not have hesitated to speak with him frankly; but you know that in verbal communication it would have been easy for me to remain within the bounds of any reaction -- I suppose the truth would be a shock to him, while in written communication it is rather difficult to modify one’s expression and explain one’s thoughts sufficiently in a manner that will make it completely understood that one is speaking only for the good of the individual and for his greater usefulness in the service that is expected of him. I realize that a superior, and especially a father like myself, should not be reduced to such manoeuvres and wariness; but should not my children show me that I may act toward them with more liberty and less precaution?” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1843-1849, Oblate Writings I, vol. 10, no. 826, p. 47 and 48)
It seems that Father Carles accompanied Father Semeria in preaching parish missions at the beginning of 1844, but he was disobedient, disturbed the peace of the community at Vico and demanded to be dispensed from his vows. In a July 26 entry in his Diary, the Founder wrote: “Session of the council of the Congregation [25 July] to rule on the request presented by Father Carles. The council ... did not hesitate one minute in recognizing ... that he should be dismissed from the society immediately. In the same session, following up on this decision, I dispensed him from his vows, handing over to the judgment of God the one who had called this sentence down upon himself.” On July 22, Bishop de Mazenod had already communicated to Father Carles that he would grant him dispensation from his vows and added: “I finish this letter broken-hearted with sorrow. I measure beforehand the disastrous consequences to your poor soul of the course you have just undertaken. I knew that you were very imperfect; but I did not suppose you to be unfaithful to the point you have shown. The poison was hidden in the wound. With more frankness on your part, the evil could probably have been remedied; but once Satan is allowed to penetrate a soul, he soon carries a person far away. That is your sad story.”
“I shall gather all your misleading letters, which I believed to be sincere, and burn them on the day you are cut off from the family which had adopted you. All that will remain is the regret of having known you and the even greater regret of having ordained you.” (Letters to the Oblates of France, 1843-1849, Oblate Writings I, vol. 10, no. 848, p. 77)
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Oblate General Archives in Rome. Oblation formula, June 29, 1840; letters from the Founder and a letter from Father Semeria to Bishop de Mazenod, August 28, 1844.