The Vatican has been ordered by Italy's Supreme Court to pay compensation to the town of Cesano near Rome after a long court battle over whether or not Vatican Radio's 60 masts have caused cancer in local children.
The court has found the evidence 'coherent and significant' that children in the area are six times more likely to develop leukemia.
I covered this story last year and all is not what it appears to be.
To sum up what I wrote before:
1. The Italian Navy also has masts in the area
2. The data submitted to the court is highly flawed.
3. There is no good evidence that masts cause cancer or of how cells are damaged by radio waves (see my original article for links to Quackwatch).
4. Italy has one of the highest rates of childhood cancer (leukemia and lymphoma) in the world.
5. There is insufficient data on the Cesano region to compare with Italy as a whole to tell if the rates really are higher.
The consumer association backing the residents' claim has said that 'Finally justice is done'. Vatican Radio has said that it is 'disappointed' by the ruling.
Parents with sick children can't be blamed for looking for someone or something to blame, some way of making sense of what has happened to them to restore a sense of order in the world. Compensation may make them feel they have more control over the situation and are not so much victims. But blaming the wrong cause means that the real cause goes unexplored.
While there may be a certain irony in the Vatican being called to account for something it didn't do while (so far) getting away with something it did do (sanction the abuse of thousands of children), irony's gain is science's loss.