THE VERY REV. GUIDO JOHN CARCICH, Society of Catholic Apostolate, developer of the Shrine of St. Jude and spiritual adviser to Mrs. Dale Hess, was on this, the day of his most lengthy indictment, eagerly awaited by us, the reporters of the press. We had been put into a conference room at the law firm of Williams and Connolly, which used to be Williams, Connolly and Califano until the last-named went off to become Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. If the church ever got indicted, you knew it would come here.

There was a long conference table in the conference room and around it all the reporters had been arranged. A lawyer kept coming in and telling everyone to step back and then he checked the microphones - nine of them, I think - and then he stepped out again. This is the law firm that knows of such things, and it knows, as surely as Carcich does, that the law is only the law but newspapers are forever.

This was Friday afternoon and for more than a year now, Father Carcich has been among the missing. He had taken the legal equivalent of a vow of silence almost from the moment it had been revealed that it was he who had lent Gov. Marvin Mande the $54,000 he needed to get divorced. It was a blockbuster, that disclosure, since it had always been assumed that Mandel got all the money from his close friend, millionaire Irvin Kovens. That is the way it is usually done in Maryland. It is for reasons like this that Maryland governors always have close friends who are millionaires.

Now the photographers were fixing their lights and the reporters were fiddling with their tape recorders and everyone was awaiting the appearance of Father Carcich. He had been in Brazil some said, or in California, some said, or maybe even in Rome, some said.

What would he look like, this man of the cloth? What would his appearance be, this bigot's dream of a Catholic priest? How would be look, this man who allegedly funneled money to Maryland politicians, who took money for orphans and invested it in Florida real estate - who must have given someone in Rome and Excedrin headache when they sat down and figured out that it took Pallottine money for a Jewish governor to divorce his Jewish wife so he could marry a Catholic woman who converted to Judaism.

He came in quickly and sat down. He came in with his lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, and he held a prepared statement in his hand. He looked down on it and I was standing behind him and to the side and I could see that this was done professionally. The type was big and capitalized and double- or maybe triple-spaced, which is the way politicians do it, and around the margins someone had written last-minuted changes with a black, felt-tip pen. A word or two had been inserted here and there - the word "religious," for example, before the word faith.

Carcich himself turned out to be small and portly, not tanned from Brazil but not pasty-skinned from some monastic life, either. He was your basic, nondescript priest, 58 years old, balding at the top of his head, and it was hard to realize that if the states proves its case this could be Maryland's all-time corrupt man. This is nothing to sneeze at in Maryland, but neither, for that matter, are the numbers involved in the indictment - $1.4 million allegedly taken, $15 million allegedly unaccounted for.

If this is true, this is better than anyone has done in recent Maryland history. This is better than Spiro Agnew did and better than Marvin Mandel did and better even than Dale Anderson and Joe Alton put together. If this is true, the business of taking from little old ladies who believe a dollar for orphaned children buys something in this life and maybe something extra in the next, is better than extorting engineers or putting the muscle on architects or even leaning on developers. If this is true, then everything that everyone ever believed about Maryand is wrong, and maybe when Carcich speaks we will hear something different.

And now the man begins to speak. "Ladies and gentlemen of the press, citizens of Maryland, brothers, priests and friends . . . " He tells about his beginnings as a mere assistant pastor at St. John the Baptist Church and how he developed that into a "nationwide center of St. Jude devotions. In 1953, I moved into a building, across the street from St. John's Church and opened a Pallotine Center. Since then I have been engaged in a fund-raising and spiritual ministry, which hopefully has helped many people in this country and foreign lands."

The voice is steady and smooth and it is coming nicely and it is coming true to form. There it was, the beginning of The Maryland Defense. You start with Humble Beginnings and then you proceed to show you are a Builder and then you say that either you did nothing really wrong or you did nothing everyone else wasn't going, or you did some things that might not be considered strictly kosher, understand, but they were done to advance a cause in this dog-eat-dog, all politicians-are-corrupt-world.

"My life has been devoted to helping others," Carcich continued, "and everything I did in my fund-raising and investment activity was designed to accomplish this end." There it was, but he did not stop there. He asked that we understand that he could say nothing more and he asked also that we withhold judgment until the final verdict is in. Then he went out of the room and down two flights to where his lawyer's office is located and the door closed. It took a moment to go back to the conference room, but already it had become impossible to withhold judgment.

This may be an innocent man or this may be a guilty man but this is certainly a confused man. This is a man who used money intended for the poor to help pay for the divorce of the rich, and this is not what he was supposed to do. This is not what priests do. This is what others do.

This is why God created Irv Kovens.