The parish council of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Georgetown formally rejected last night demands by radical activist Mitch Snyder that the church give more money to the poor.
The rejection came hours after a physician announced that Snyder. in his 12th day of a dramatic fast to press his demands, is in "very perilous" condition and could die today or tomorrow.
"As a Christian community, we submit to the judgment of God's word as proclaimed in the church and expressed in its tradition," said a formal statement of the parish council read to reporters after a one-hour closed meeting of the council last night. "It is not reasonable for us to submit to your judgment."
The statement added: "Your life is holy and sacred, and we ask you not to use it as a weapon." Members of the Community for Creative Non-Violence, where Snyder has conducted his fast, said they would not comment immediately on the parish council action.
At a CCNV press conference hours earlier, Dr. Lee Randol, a Baltimore physician, said that Snyder, 35, has now lost at least 20 percent of his original body weight "and you can encounter death at that stage." He said he based this judgment in part on the results of a series of blood tests on Snyder.
Four independent physicians called by The Washington Post yesterday, however, questioned some details of the laboratory blood test results released at Randol's press conference.
While they agreed that the results generally indicate Snyder is approaching advanced stages of starvation and dehydration, three doctors said some results were inconsistent with conditions of a person on a total fast. One doctor, a clinical pathologist who asked not to be identified, said Snyder "appears to have ingested a small amount of nourishment," prolonging the fast period.
A fifth doctor, James Ramey, an internist, said, however, many of the test results are inconclusive or inconsequential. Others, he said, are "entirely compatible" with advancing dehydration, "and don't mean he has broken his fast."
Snyder vowed from the outset to maintain a total fast -- no food and no water. "I give you my personal assurances that no food or water has passed his lips," CCNV spokesman Mark Lee said yesterday.
Snyder was removed from the CCNV communal house at 1345 Euclid St. NW to an undisclosed location late Monday after a private psychiatrist attempted unsuccessfully to have him committed to a hospital for forced feeding. On Monday, he was visibly thinner and appeared to be weak.
Throughout this week, officials of the Catholic hierarchy in the Washington area had pressed both CCNV and Holy Trinity to resolve the impasse that has created sharp feelings and anguish in much of the Catholic community. The Rev. James English, pastor of Holy Trinity, met with Cardinal William W. Baum, archbishop of Washington, just yesterday.
At the CCNV press conference yesterday, Randol presented a list of 20 chemical laboratory tests based on blood withdrawals from Snyder on Dec. 29, Dec. 31 and Jan. 2. Red and white blood cell counts, hemoglobin levels, blood urea nitrogen (BUN) counts all indicate advancing dehydration, Randol said, as Snyder gradually loses the fluids in his body.
Levels for glucose, uric acid, potassium and chloride fell from Dec. 31 to Jan. 2, however, suggesting their concentration in the bloodstream had been slightly diluted by ingestion of food or water, one doctor told The Post. Three other doctors, all of whom also asked not to be identified, said the levels were inconsistent with a total fast, but they would not say if they were caused by Snyder eating or drinking.
Randol said in a telephone interview after yesterday's press conference that he could not explain the lower levels. He said that a "watery solution" sometimes is inadvertently included in blood samples when blood is taken from a patient's arm, "and this could dilute the blood" during testing.
Randol said he has seen Snyder only once. last Sunday, since the fast started, and he has not personally drawn blood from Snyder. CCNV members said the blood sample has been taken by a registered nurse who is with Snyder at his undisclosed location.
Randol, who said he is a friend of Snyder but is not his personal physician, said he is acting in the limited role of "interpreting" Snyder's periodic blood test results for the public.
Snyder's personal physician reportedly declined to assist after CCNV said it was seeking a doctor who would monitor, but not treat, Snyder.
"I was asked to help because no one else was available, Randol said yesterday. He said he has had "qualims" about whether his limited role violates the physician's Hippocratic Oath to do everything in his power to save life. "It's a ticklish situation," he said.
He added, however, that "I'm not in a position" to affect Snyder's condition. He said he does not know where Snyder is being kept and assumes he will be asked only to interpret periodic lab results on Snyder.