BELTON, Mo. -- Many Catholics say they were shocked to wake up to the news Tuesday that Bishop Robert Finn had resigned.
Nearly three years after becoming the highest ranking U.S. Catholic leader convicted in the church's sex abuse scandal, Pope Francis accepted Finn's resignation.
The embattled bishop has been under fire ever since he pleaded guilty to failing to report a priest suspected of child abuse, and many ordinary Catholics could not get past that conviction.
"There's a lot of division that has occurred in the diocese as a result of some of these policies," said Biagio Mazza of St. Sabina Catholic Church. "A lot of healing, a lot of reconciliation, forgiveness has to be done by people across the board on all sides."
Catholics increasingly have demanded a crackdown on church leaders who cover up for pedophiles. But some say that's just one of many actions by Finn that made his removal long overdue.
"I perceive there's a fear of punishment," said Donna Ryan of the Sisters of Mercy. "Sometimes he's a little punitive, rather than listening to people. For years this community has been known because we know how to dialogue, how to accept one another. I feel that he hasn't quite grown into that yet."
Ryan is praying for a new leader who will heal the divisions and make the diocese one church again. Some also credit the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests for keeping the bishop's actions in the public spotlight.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann, from across the state line in Kansas City, Kan., will oversee the diocese until a new bishop is appointed.