A vow of secrecy by the Catholic Church was finally unraveled by a Seneca man who says DNA results prove he’s the son of a priest.
Newspaper clippings, of Reverend Thomas Sullivan’s obituary, altered Jim Graham’s life.
“When I looked at it… when they gave it to me, I realized this man had to be my father,” Graham told 7News.
Graham says 25 years ago, his family member leaked a dark secret.
“Well when I was 48 years of age, I found out that the man who I thought was my father, John Graham, wasn’t my father.” He said.
Graham tells 7News when the man who raised him died, the vow to keep his identity a secret was broken. That’s when the truth, about who he really was finally came to light.
“You’re father was Father Thomas Sullivan, a priest. A Catholic priest,” said Graham.
With Sullivan’s eulogy, given to him by the family that raised him, as a starting point Graham began to unravel the mystery. He searched the parishes Rev. Sullivan had worked at and talked to the clergy Rev. Sullivan has worshipped with.
“I said then you know [to the priest who knew Rev. Sullivan]. He said yeah, I know. I said well how do you know? He said you look just like him,” Graham told 7News. “The confirmation was incredible.”
Graham says he learned his mother and Rev. Sullivan has a short romance. He says his mother left her husband, John Graham the man who pretended to be his father.
Together the priest and Graham’s mother risked it all for him, but eventually the church found out Rev. Sullivan fathered a child and put a stop to it.
“They found out about us and they tore us apart, and they pulled my father back into the Order and punished him for 16 years before they gave him his priest rights back.” Graham said.
He says court documents he obtained show his mother was sworn to secrecy and John Graham lied under oath, saying he was the father.
Despite resistance from the Catholic Church, Graham says he was determined to prove the truth.
He wrote a letter asking for the priests’ body to be exhumed for DNA testing. To his surprise it was approved.
After a quarter of a century, Graham finally got the affirmation he longed for “it was 99.999 that Father Sullivan was my father,” he said.
Graham says Rev. Sullivan, his mother and John Graham all died keeping the secret. He says the ultimate closure would be if the Catholic Church would admit the truth, because through this experience he’s met many other people who were also fathered by priest.