THERE IS SOMETHING inadequate about the resolution of the case involving the Very Rev. Guido John Carcich, the former Pallottine Fathers fund-raiser. Last week Father Carcich pleaded guilty to a charge of secreting funds with "fraudulent intent" to misappropriate a portion of the money for the benefit of others. But that does not describe his worst offense. Father Carcich is not your ordinary white-collar criminal who has misused the funds of some secular firm. He wears a rather special collar, and the $2.2 million he diverted for some time to secret accounts, real-estate ventures, dubious loans and such was money that people had donated to help the poor. While he was violating the Maryland fiduciary laws, he was also violating a larger trust.

That is a consideration, it seems to us, that could quite properly have been taken into account in the negotiated settlement of the criminal case - as it is proper to judge more harshly those in government who abuse a public trust. And, in our view, it was not. On the contrary, the negotiated sentence - 18 months' probation, and a year of daytime work of some kind in the state prison system - seems to us a punishment unfitting to the crime. perhaps a straight jail term would not have accomplished much. But surely, whether in the interests of punishment or rehabilitation, it would have been more fitting to assign him to a sustained stretch of hard work for a dedicated, well-managed charity.

Not the least of our concern over the sentence handed out to Father Carcich is the example it could set for others. Two year ago Father Carcich's superior did admit "serious mistakes and judgmental errors," and agreed with the state and Baltimore Archbishop William Borders to overhaul the order's fund-raising and liquidate its investments. Recently, though, the order's hierarchy has rallied behind Father Carcich, praising his "enthusiasm" and good works and urging the court to let him conclude his career as a parish priest. Such loyalty is understandable. The danger is that too much charity toward this wayward priest could raise new questions about the order's priorities. That would undermine the serious efforts by Archbishop Borders and the national church leadership to repair public trust in Catholic charities in general.