It was the Rev. Guido John Carcich's "zeal to propagate the faith and assist the missions" rather than personal gain that motivated the chief fund raiser of the Palottine Fathers to put millions donated for charity is speculative real estate ventures and secret bank accounts, according to the priests defense attorneys.
While his lawyers conceded in a Baltimore court yesterday that Carcich was "guilty of the crime charged," they argued that compared to the millions Carcich raised for charity "the amount misused is minuscule. He did not steal no benefit peronally."
Whatever Carcich did, the priest's attorneys emphasized over and over again, in a 37-page explanation of their client's actions, he did it for the church. The master fund raiser who brought $170 million in charitable contributions into the Catholic order over the course of 25 years was merely a "realist," they said.
Carcich "understood the churches, schools, hospitals and retreats could nto be built and maintained without financial support."
In quest of this support, the worldly Carcich successfully combined the high-pressure techniques of direct-mail advertising - complete with sweepstakes contests that offered new cars and stereos to lucky winners - with prayerful appeals on behalf of children who were pictured standing half-starved in front of thatched huts in far-off jungles.
This dual appeal worked - it worked amazingly well. Money poured into the order's Baltimore headquarters.
But instead of going to foreign missions, nearly three-fourths of the proceeds were eaten up by the high cost of the slick, computerized direct-mail solcitations. And most of the little that remained was invested by Carcich - as a hedge against the future, his attorney said yesterday.
Only abot 2.5 cents of each dollar went to mission work, according to one audit.
Those revelations rocked the $4-billion world of charitable organizations. Baltimore Archbishop William D. Borders issued new guidelines for Catholic charitable organizations in Maryland, and many persons who almost automatically contributed to what they believed to be worthy causes reevalutated the charitable organizations they had always given to without question. On Capitol Hill, the call for tighter federal regulations was sounded.
But while each new revelation of Carcich's financial manipulations raised more and more questions about charitable fundraising, the priest himself never offered any answers. Yesterday, in their statement, his lawyers answered for him.
While the priest did plead guilty to concealing $2.2 million in secret bank accounts, he did nthat to protect his religious order from lawsuits brought by competitors in the fast-track secular world of direct-mail fund raising, his attorneys claimed.
And for every other accuastion in the 61-count indictment, Carcich's attorneys had an explanation.
He invested in exotic Florida land and motel schemes because "he was concerned over the mercurial rise and fall of the stock market."
He paid himself an $8,000 finder's fee for getting a tenant for the Pallottine's mail-order factory only to keep this money from going to a real estate broker.
He diverted interest payemnts to himself and a lawyer so the 18 percent rate the Pallottines were charging on a loan to a private investor wouldn't raise eyebrows.
And when Carcich emerged from the courtroom yesterday with the full support of his superiors in the Pallottine order and the forgiveness of Archbishop William D. Borders, who once described Carcich's tactics as "immoral."
What remained unlear yesterday, is the long-range effort on charitable fund raising the revelations will have.
In a statement issued yesterday the archbishop said "hopefully the cloud of doubt hanging over fund-raising activities of charitable institutions becuse of the activities of Father Carcich will dissipate and we can go about the business of serving the poor and those in need in a manner that benefits all concerned people."
As for Carcich, Borders said, "I pray the people will now be free to let Father Carcich and the Pallottines have some of the peace which an admission of guilt and attempts to rectify wrongdoing should bring."
Borders would not comment on the court action, but said "as pastor of Maryland's Catholics . . . I have since the beginning of the revelations about the Pallottines asked people to look at the moral implications of fund raising for church-related and charitable organizations.
"In the past few months, Pallottines Inc. have worked diligently in trying to put their house in order. They have succeeded, and are now in conformity with fund-raising guidelines issued nearly two years ago."
The new glidelines were ordered following the disclosure by The Washington Post on Nov. 19, 1975, that the then little-known Baltimore religious order had lent $54,000 to Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel to help finance the governor's divorce.
A series of stories in The Post and The Baltimore Sun revealed the far-flung activities of the Pallottines and their ubiquitous leader,"the Good Father" Carcich, as he was known to friends in the worlds of business and politics.
The portrait of Carcich as revealed in those newspaper stories was one of a priest who loved good food, fancy cars, trips to Las Vegas and Florida and who was equally at home in the priest's collar or flowery sport shirt.
He invested money donated as charitable contributions in condominium projects in Florida, North Carolina and Marylnad, made business deals with Mandel and the governor's political allies and even laundered the loan to the governor through a used car salesman.
But the priest described in the document filed in court yesterday was a very different man: a no-nonsense servant of God and man whose "list of good works . . . is so numerous as to defy recounting."
Carcich was in the forefront of those concerned about the high costs of his fund-raising efforts, the document said.
"He was concerned that 75 or 80 cents of each dollar raised was consumed by the cost of obtaining the dollars," the statement siad. "Anticipating that federal and state legislatures were likely to outlaw or restrict direct-mail fund-raising, Father Carcich began a program of investment that was designed to create an endowment containing approximately $35 million in assets.
"If (this goal were) reached by the late 1970s, the needs of the Pallottines in this country and foreign missions would be met."
Working "to assure the future economic viability" of Pallottine missions, Carcich "acquired income producing properties . . . Some of these investments were successful and some were not," the statement went on.
Carcich, a native of Yugoslavia who had come with his poverty-stricken family to New Jersye in 1926, was ordained in Rome in 1945. Subsequently, he returned to the U.S., where he was assigned by the Pallottines as assistant pastor at St. John the Baptish Church in Baltimore.
Using $500 of Pallottine funds, a sum that he augmented with money of his own, Carcich began a "program of spiritual mailings" that prompted an "overwhelming response" including money, although none was sought.
In 1961, he made his first trip to a Pallottine mission, in Brazil, from which he returned "driven by a desire to help these less fortunate people and the Pallottine priests ministering to them." Soon he visited missions in India, Australia and Africa, each time returning with new "desire" to expand the fund-raising operation.