Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin did not reveal for three months the bombshell news that Pope Benedict XVI decided, last May, not to accept the resignations of two Dublin auxiliary bishops.
On his return to Dublin today, Dr Martin will face mounting criticism from priests and laity after a controversial speech in Italy in which he deplored the low level of theological debate in Ireland.
The archbishop is also expected to hold what is likely to be a frosty meeting later this week with his two senior auxiliary bishops, whose resignations over their role in the Murphy Report were rejected by the Pope.
The Irish Independent has learned from informed sources that the Pope decided last May not to accept the resignations of Bishops Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field, which were offered on Christmas Eve.
But Dr Martin delayed the announcement until earlier this month -- making it known in a three-line written communication to Dublin diocesan clergy before heading off on holiday, where he was uncontactable for comment by journalists.
Dr Martin made his damning comments about theological illiteracy in an address in Rimini to the conservative right-wing religious movement known as Communion and Liberation (C&L).
After delivering an address on Cardinal John Henry Newman, who is to be beatified at a ceremony in Birmingham next month by Pope Benedict, Dr Martin was given a standing ovation -- a response that was interpreted as evidence of his high standing in Rome.
But the editor of the 'Irish Catholic' newspaper, Garry O'Sullivan, last night accused Dr Martin of showing "intellectual snobbery" for a man who did not earn a doctorate in either theology or philosophy.
Mr O'Sullivan also questioned whether support for the archbishop from C&L was evidence of his high standing with Pope Benedict and senior members of the Roman Curia.
"The archbishop has had an association going back many years with Communion and Liberation," said Mr O'Sullivan, "It is akin to saying that a Fianna Fail minister got great support at a Fianna Fail Ard Fheis -- hardly surprising."
Mr O'Sullivan expressed scepticism of a claim that "church observers" in Rome were emphasising that the reinstatement of the two Dublin bishops by the Pope "in no way represents a vote of no confidence in Dr Martin".
"Really?" said Mr O'Sullivan.
"Why, then, did Dr Martin not make himself available to the Irish media to say as much and answer legitimate questions arising from the resignations?
"Instead, he chose to mention the resignations as a three-line afterthought in a three-page letter released only to clergy, in August, when evidence suggests that the decision was made by the Vatican months before?
"Having announced the resignations on Christmas Eve last, surely the now reinstated bishops deserved an equally public announcement. Yet the archbishop went on holidays, not even telling his brother bishops about the Vatican decision."
Mr O'Sullivan also asked why the Vatican did not announce its decision with a note of support for Dr Martin -- knowing quite well that it would be seen as a rebuke to Dr Martin.
"How can we Catholics have a quality debate when our archbishop, who has dismissed the democratic notion of a diocesan synod, regularly engages in megaphone criticisms of his priests, his own youth ministry, the Catholic press, his fellow bishops; refuses to name alleged 'strong forces' at work in the church and leaves the country refusing interviews rather than allow any intelligent questioning of himself or his current policies and strategic direction for the Dublin Diocese," Mr O'Sullivan told the Irish Independent.
Dr Martin's media spokesperson, meanwhile, was sceptical of the "informed sources" who claimed Pope Benedict's decision to reject the resignations of Bishops Walsh and Field was communicated to Dr Martin last May.