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Ex-CIA chief Panetta: Pope must be a ‘helluva a lot bolder’ in combating abuse

Pope Francis waves at the public as he arrives to lead his weekly general audience at the Saint Peter's Square, in Vatican, on Sept. 12, 2018. | TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images

Will Pope Francis be told?

Will Pope Francis be bold?

• Translation: Sneed has learned the bombshell letter dispatched recently by a lay board appointed 15 years ago by the U.S. Conference of Bishops to probe the priest sex abuse scandal — now seeking to be reappointed to probe the church hierarchy — could be put in the hands of Pope Francis on Thursday.

• To wit: Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who is head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — and has acknowledged receipt of the letter — is heading to an emergency meeting with the Pope in Rome Thursday to discuss the hierarchical cover-up of the pedophile priest scandal.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, who served as interim head of the lay board, tells Sneed: “It’s an unexpected, but great opportunity for Cardinal DiNardo to present our letter to the Pope. Whether Cardinal DiNardo does it is another matter,” she said.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo | Patrick Semansky/AP photo

In an interview last week, former CIA chief Leon Panetta, who was also a member of the lay board, told Sneed:

“I remain very skeptical. I never felt the bishops took any action to change things and we’ve paid a helluva price for it all.

“It hurts and it hurts deeply” — especially “those of us who have been raised in the church and respect priests, and [to] then find out they have been protecting these priests. I will always have a relationship with the church because its basic beliefs go back to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

“I respect the Pope.

“I think he is trying to bring the church into the 21st century. But he needs to be a helluva lot bolder in taking necessary steps.”

The nine-member former lay board panel packs a lot of investigative muscle: powerhouse D.C. attorney Bob Bennett; New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Petra Jimenez Maes; as well as Panetta, who also served as U.S. Defense Secretary and President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff.

“We know Cardinal DiNardo acknowledged our letter and has taken it under advisement,” added Burke. “I would hope this meeting, which also includes the Pope’s top sex abuse adviser, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, would include a FRANK conversation about what the Catholic Church laity thinks.

“I hope they are aware how angry we are … and that we are the ones the hierarchy should be afraid of. We are the ones in the pews. We are the ones who fund the church.

“At the end of the day, they should be very worried about the Catholics in the pews who cannot trust them anymore, ” Burke said.

Wirtz-a-whirl . . .

Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, who is also a liquor and real estate magnate, now has his phone ringing off the hook with candidates calling for love.

Rocky’s also the guy who gave mayoral candidate Paul Vallas’ campaign last month $200,000 because he was irked with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council with upping the fan taxes, which he feels will decimate the sports and concert industry.

Given the change in political landscape, is Wirtz’s cash station closed?

“Ummm … not likely,” said the source.


Bill Murray at Caddyshack in Rosemont last Thursday. | Photo provided by Michael Avella

Murray on the move . . .

A burger. Green beans, no fries. And Casa Amiga Moscow mules for the guests.

• To wit: Comedian and Cubbie superfan Bill Murray spent a few days with his brother, Andy, co-owner of their CaddyShack eatery in Rosemont last Thursday.

• In town for his 50-year college reunion at Loyola Academy on Saturday, Murray stopped in at CaddyShack on Thursday for lunch and came back Sunday night for the Bears-Packers game.

• Chow down, drink up: Murray ate a hamburger, swapped out the side of fries for green beans, ordered some crab cakes and then jumped behind the bar to make and serve drinks.


Sneedlings . . .

Happy 36th wedding anniversary to Matt and Deb Brown Tuesday. . . . Today’s birthday: Tyler Perry, 49; Stella McCartney, 47; and Niall Horan, 25.