Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of DC’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Catholic News Agency reports:

In a letter to Wuerl obtained by CNA Oct. 12, Pope Francis told the cardinal: “Your renunciation is a sign of your availability and docility to the Spirit who continues to act in his Church.”

“In accepting your resignation, I ask you to remain as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese until the appointment of your successor.”

Wuerl, 77, originally submitted his resignation on Nov. 12, 2015, when he turned 75 years old, as required by canon law.

The pope said Friday that he had also received a Sept. 21 request from Wuerl that his resignation be accepted.

“This request rests on two pillars that have marked and continue to mark your ministry: to seek in all things the greater glory of God and to procure the good of the people entrusted to your care,” Pope Francis wrote.

In the Oct. 12 letter accepting Wuerl’s resignation, Francis defended the cardinal from the widespread criticism he has faced in recent months.

“You have sufficient elements to ‘justify’ your actions and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with problems, and to commit some mistakes.”

“However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you.”

“Your renunciation is a sign of your availability and docility to the Spirit who continues to act in his Church,” he added.

This is not a pope who understands the gravity of the sex abuse problem. This is a pope who, in lavishing praise on the exiting Wuerl, is in effect justifying his own past actions. Hey, everybody makes mistakes, right? I’ve been sitting here nobly being silent about them. You should be proud of me, and thank me. 

This is a pope who has still not said a word about why he embraced Cardinal McCarrick and drew him out of private life despite the overwhelming likelihood that he, Francis, knew exactly what McCarrick had done. In fact, in the text of his letter to Wuerl — full letter here — Francis referred to his own critics — as if the pressure on Wuerl to resign over his handling of sex abuse as Bishop of Pittsburgh was really an attack on Francis himself by the devil (which is how Francis has characterized criticism of himself regarding the McCarrick affair):

I recognize in your request the heart of the shepherd who, by widening his vision to recognize a greater good that can benefit the whole body (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 235), prioritizes actions that support, stimulate and make the unity and mission of the Church grow above every kind of sterile division sown by the father of lies who, trying to hurt the shepherd, wants nothing more than that the sheep be dispersed (cf. Matthew 26:31).

Pope Francis’s attitude towards Wuerl, as expressed in this letter, reflects the kind of hardcore clericalism shown by Cardinal Bernard Law to Father John Geoghan, molester of 130 boys, upon his retirement. No awareness of the suffering of others caused by the cleric’s actions regarding sex abuse (in Geoghan’s case, committing it; in Wuerl’s case, covering up for it), only compassion for the poor, poor priest, forced out of ministry by the unpleasantness. Francis is effectively saying to the DC cardinal: Yours has been an effective life of episcopal ministry, sadly marred by some mistakes, accountability for which you are too noble to defend yourself — and for this, I am proud of you. God bless you, Don.