Radical Christian Mitch Snyder abandoned his fast in its 12th day early yesterday, ending the confrontation with Holy Trinity Church that has racked the Roman Catholic community here for the last two weeks.
Haggard and weakened, Snyder was taken from his hideaway location in the city to Sibley Memorial Hospital at about 1 a.m. by friends in the Community for Creative Non-violence.
Snyder's personal physician, Dr. John F. Bresette, said the 35year-old activist appeared to be recovering well, had probably suffered no irreversible damage and should be out of the hospital "in a day or two."
In a brief interview at the hospital last night, Snyder, still wan but surprisingly energetic, said he was not certain what his fast accomplished except in a general sense of raising public awareness of the plight of "the poor and starving."
For the immediate future, he said, CCNV plans no specific actions against Holy Trinity or other institutions but will continue its more routine work of operating a soup kitchen, emergency night shelter and other services for the poor.
The decision by Snyder and a small circle of CCNV intimates to abandon the fast came about three hours after the Holy Trinity parish council announced its rejection of demands by CCNV that the church give more money or other resources to the poor.
"We were pretty horrified at the callousness fo the [rejection] statement, and that's what triggered the decision to end the fast," said Ed Guinan, founder of CCNV and a former Paulist priest.
The three-page typewritten statement -- actually a letter addressed to Snyder -- urged him to terminate his fast. "Your life is holy and sacred, and we ask you to not use it as a weapon," the letter said.
The Rev. James English, pastor of the church, said in an interview yesterday that the 20 member parish council was "not trying to call Mitch's bluff" by refusing to knuckle under to his death threat.
"I think everyone here felt [his fast] was serious," English said.
Asked if the council was therefore letting Snyder die, English said, "I would say we were willing to 'permit' his death because we could not accept his attempts at tyranny over us."
Snyder, in a dramatic effort to pressure the church, started on Christmas Eve what he said would be a total "fast to the death" if Holy Trinity failed to make an unspecified "corporate commitment" to the poor that would meet CCNV acceptance.
As Snyder's condition deteriorated, urgent last-minute attempts by highranking officials of the Catholic hierarchy in the Washington area to get the two sides to negotiate a settlement failed.
On Monday this week, CCNV members removed Snyder to an undisclosed location from their communal house at 1345 Euclid St. NW after a private psychiatrist tried unsuccessfully to have Snyder committed to a hospital for forced feeding.
As the days dragged by and Snyder's condition reportedly worsened, city legal officials began considering ways to compel his hospitalization by court order.
At the same time, a small group of Holy Trinity parishioners, including parish council member Peggy Nolan, met with CCNV members through a informal liaison "support committee at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Church, 16th and Newton streets NW, to seek ways to mediate. Nolan said they warned CCNV, however, that Holy Trinity officials were "not likely to change" and "considered that the responsibility for Snyder's life lay elsewhere."
Snyder was move dat least twice from one hideaway to another during the week, as CCNV membrs feared authorities would find him and stop the fast. Members said he was always with a small handful of friends, including a registered nurse.
Just before midnight Wednesday, CCNV members said Snyder's deterioration accelerated. A group of six or seven close friends gathered, including Catholic antiwar protest veterans Daniel and Philip Berrigan. Daniel Berrigan, a Jesutit priest, gave Snyder his last rites, according to two sources.
Minutes later, according to CCNV members, they received an official copy of the Holy Trinty parish council rejection of CCNV demands.
The rejection statement triggered a group decision to end the fast made by the "six or seven people present, including Mitch, who was fully conscious," said Guinan.
"Whatever personal horror we would experience at his death [was] overwhelmed by the horror revealed to us in that [rejection] statement which expresses an acceptance of Mitch's death, rather than a yearning for the joy and pain of truth-seeking," said a CCNV statement issued later yesterday morning.
CCNV members called Bresette, Snyder's physician, and drove Snyder to Sibley Hospital, where they met Bresette.
Bresette yesterday afternoon described Snyder as "moderately dehydrated" and said he had lost about 10 percent of his body fluids from the fast.
Bresette said Snyder weighed 143 pounds -- down 33 pounds from his original 176 pounds -- when he was admitted to Sibley. He was being fed yesterday both orally and intravenously