Dozens of seminarians in Honduras are warning that there is a widespread pattern of secretive homosexual practice going on in the top Roman Catholic seminary in Tegucigalpa, the nation's capital.
The controversy also swirls around the role of Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, who is accused of failing to act on strong evidence that suggested Bishop Juan Jose Pineda Fasquelle was caught up in sexual misconduct, according to National Catholic Register.
"Heterosexual seminarians are scandalized and really depressed," one unnamed seminarian said.
"Many are thinking about leaving the seminary. I fear that many will leave."
Close to 50 seminarians have spoken of "irrefutable evidence" of a "homosexual network" that they say is entrenched in the institution, and released a letter to their superiors in June detailing their fears.
The Register obtained a copy of the letter, which states:
"We are living and experiencing a time of tension in our house because of gravely immoral situations, above all of an active homosexuality inside the seminary that has been a taboo all this time and by covering up and penalizing this situation, the problem has grown in strength, turning into, as one priest said not so long ago, an 'epidemic in the seminary.'"
The Catholic site also said that it obtained "graphic photographic evidence of homosexual pornography, exchanged on WhatsApp between seminarians."
Further evidence was one gay seminarian's suicide note, who failed in April in an attempt on his own life after discovering his male lover was in another relationship.
Last week, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Pineda, who asked for forgiveness over accusations of sexual abuse by other unnamed seminarians.
Reuters reported that Pineda did not directly address the allegations of abuse and said that he has the right to continue public ministry, but still noted that he will be departing as bishop in order to find more time for "prayer and personal development."
Maradiaga, who serves as a top adviser to Pope Francis on church reform and is known to have mentored Pineda, has not yet publicly responded to the scandals.
The Register pointed to sources in Honduras who say that instead, Maradiaga has privately been accusing the seminarians who wrote the letter in June of being "gossipers" who want to put others in a bad light.
The seminarians have denied such accusations, however, and also said that they are not speaking out due to "homophobia."
"Neither is it gossip or a lack of manliness," they insisted.
"We humbly ask forgiveness if our words offend you or make you uncomfortable, but we are convinced it was necessary to express with freedom, respect and charity this reality," they said.
"We express our brotherly affection and pray for you who are the head of this house and who also have a difficult mission. We put you in the hands of Our Lady of Suyapa, patroness of this seminary, and St. Joseph, patron of all the seminarians of the world in the universal Church."
The bishops have reportedly said that they are investigating the matter and will be interviewing the seminarians in order to uncover how deep the problem reaches, but it is not yet known what action they will take.