21 July 2016, The Tablet

Cardinal Pell to lose major ally as chief financial officer to return home to Australia

Danny Casey who worked with Pell in Sydney was in charge of creating greater accountability for Vatican's finances

One of Cardinal George Pell’s chief aides working on reforming Vatican finances is leaving his post, The Tablet can report. Danny Casey, in charge of the “project management office” in the Holy See economy secretariat, had been brought to Rome two years ago by his fellow countryman Cardinal Pell: the two had previously worked closely together in Sydney when Casey was the archdiocese’s business manager. 

“We are happy to confirm, as was anticipated when Danny commenced working in the Secretariat in 2014 for a 2-year term, he is leaving us at the end of September to return to Australia,” a statement from Cardinal Pell’s office confirmed. “We are enormously grateful for the contribution Danny has made to implementing the Holy Father’s Reforms.”  

Casey (pictured left with Cardinal Pell) had been put in charge of implementing series of changes to the management of Holy See finances including greater accountability and a more robust management of budgets. Among them was the transfer of APSA - the Vatican financial powerhouse which oversees properties and assets - into Cardinal Pell’s Secretariat for the Economy.

But the reforms in the Vatican have been marked by internal opposition and complaints from some in the Holy See that Pell had over-reached himself. A law issued earlier this month by Pope Francis trimmed back some cardinal’s powers by ruling that major functions of APSA would no longer be controlled by his secretariat - although it will retain a supervisory role. 

There was also the planned audit of Vatican finances by PricewaterhouseCoopers which had to be shelved following resistance by senior officials - PwC are instead assisting the Holy See’s auditor general with the job. 

Casey’s departure will be read by some as isolating the cardinal in his reform efforts: on the other hand, Pell, who has reached the bishop retirement age of 75, has pledged he will serve until 2019. Last month he said the reforms to Vatican finances were “irreversible” and there are no longer any “pools of darkness.”  The cardinal has overseen a change in leadership at the Vatican bank, the appointment of the first independent auditor general and better budgeting and control of expenditure. 

In a interview last week Casey said one of the biggest challenges he had faced in Rome was a culture where authority was not questioned. “Questioning superiors is not really the culture. But where we come from it certainly is and we welcome,” he told The Deal, a business magazine published by The Australian newspaper.

Soon after taking up their positions the cardinal and Casey went through all the Vatican finances and found hundreds of millions of euros unaccounted for. 

“It doesn’t mean there was skulduggery or financial malpractice, but in the absence of having some transparency of financial investments off the books how do you know?” he said. “The total amount off the books, when you take into account the entities, was about €2 billion ($3bn).”

He also denied a “clash of cultures” between outsiders and Italians saying the vast majority of employees at the economy secretariat are Italian and “deeply committed" to the reform work. 

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