The Vatican has been beaming cancer rays into children!

That’s the latest news, anyway: radio masts operated by the Vatican have been implicated in an increased incidence of cancers nearby.

It is such a juicily evil story — it would just fit the Pope’s Bond villain image so well — but, and I really, really hate to defend the Vatican, I don’t buy it. Sorry. I know it’s my mission to smack the Catholic church around, but this is a case where I just find it highly unlikely.

I have not read the report; all I’ve seen so far is the accusation, the small numbers (19 deaths in 23 years) and the excessive charges — 6 people are being investigated on criminal charges of manslaughter. Something’s just not right here.

These stories crop up regularly. People claim power lines or cell phones cause cancer, but none of the data really support it — there is no plausible mechanism where these very weak fields could be causing cancer, and at best the epidemiological studies show there can be only a very small effect…or more likely, no effect at all.

Maybe there are some new and persuasive data and statistics in this new Italian study, but even if they actually have a believable measure of an effect, it’s not going to justify criminal charges. It’s also peculiar to focus on just the Catholic church; are there no other shortwave radio antennas in Italy?

Apparently there are: the Italian navy has radio masts in the same area, but to make the report even weirder, only Catholic antennas and not naval antennas cause cancer. I’d like to know how they determined that, and what makes Catholicism carcinogenic.