Sneed exclusive . . .

It’s a major step.

But will Pope Francis be told?

Sneed has learned a bombshell letter dispatched this week by a lay board appointed 15 years ago by the U.S. Conference of Bishops to probe the clerical sex abuse scandal — which is now seeking to be reappointed to probe the church hierarchy — has been received and acknowledged by the Bishops conference chief, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.

RELATED: Bishop who didn’t alert police on abuser-priests is living at cardinal’s mansion

“They are taking it under advisement,” said Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, who had been the interim head of the lay board in 2004.

Burke said she has asked that the request be sent to Pope Francis.

“Now we have to wait and see if they forward it to the Holy See,” she said.

The nine-member lay board panel packs a lot of investigative muscle. It includes Burke; President Barack Obama’s former CIA chief and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who oversaw the team who found Osama bin Laden; powerful Washington, D.C., attorney Robert Bennett; and New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Petra Jimenez Maes.

The acceptance of the letter by the U.S. Conference of Bishops comes as the Sun-Times reported Friday that Bishop Raymond Goedert — who acknowledged in a 2007 deposition that he knew of 25 priests who had molested children but had never told the police — has been allowed to live at the cardinal’s mansion on the Gold Coast with permission of Chicago’s last three Cardinals dating back to the 1990s. Goedert retired in 2003.

The letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by the lay board cites recent claims by a retired top Vatican official that Pope Francis himself knew about sexual misconduct allegations against former Washington, D.C. Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, but that Francis restored him to public ministry anyway. McCarrick resigned in July after an abuse allegation lodged against him was deemed “credible.”

“We were never given the power to investigate the bishops,” Burke told Sneed. “We need to know why McCarrick and others rose in their ecclesiastical careers when troubling facts regarding sexual abuse were known by the hierarchy which promoted them.”

A copy of the letter to Burke from a representative of DiNardo, which was obtained by Sneed, states:

“Good morning Justice Burke,

“Thank you for your recent email and attached correspondence to His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and please know that the content of your letter has been received.”

Stay tuned.

RELATED: Lay board that probed sex abuse in Catholic Church seeks to be reappointed