"I've known this man long enough to give him the benefit of a couple of HUNDRED doubts! He's not about to take a stand unless he feels it pretty deep!"
~Colonel Potter about Father Mulcahy (A Holy Mess)
"Boy. You're no soft touch."
~Klinger to Father Mulcahy (Mail Call Three)
First Lieutenant (later Captain) John Francis Patrick Mulcahy, commonly known as Father Mulcahy, is a fictional principal character in all three incarnations of M*A*S*H- the original Richard Hooker novel, the 1970 Robert Altman film, and in the television series. Mulcahy was portayed in the film by René Auberjonois, by George Morgan in the pilot episode of the TV series, and then throughout the remainder of the series by William Christopher.
His name(s) Edit
Father Mulcahy's name was changed from John Patrick Francis Mulcahy to Francis John Patrick Mulcahy (as he revealed in episode 7 of Season 8 when asked by a nurse he was counseling). Either form of the name is an attempt to reconcile his identification as "Father John P. Mulcahy" in the pilot episode with the name "Francis Mulcahy" established later on.
In the novel and the film Mulcahy was supposedly of Italian and Irish descent, and as such was given the nickname "Dago Red"; the word 'Dago' is an offensive name for Italians, while 'Red' was a reference to the color of his hair, and the type of wine used in holy sacrament (which in turn alluded to the derisive stereotype of Irish men being heavy drinkers). By the time the TV series bowed, Mulcahy was depicted only as Irish, and was called "Red" once or twice by Hawkeye and Trapper before all vestiges of the nickname were permanently dropped.
In the film (1970)Edit
René Auberjonois played Father Mulcahy in the original 1970 M*A*S*H* film, a US Army chaplain assigned to the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. While most of the staff is not religious, they treat Mulcahy with some respect. It is Mulcahy who alerts the doctors that the camp dentist, Painless, is severely depressed. Afterward, Mulcahy reluctantly helps the doctors to stage the famous "Last Supper" faux suicide, to convince Painless that he should continue with life.
Throughout the film, Mulcahy seems bewildered by the doctors' amoral pranks and womanizing behavior. When Radar places a hidden microphone inside Hot Lips' tent as she and Frank Burns make love, members of the camp listen in, and Mulcahy at first mistakes their conversation (and noises) for an episode of The Bickersons—then leaves abruptly when he realizes otherwise.
In the TV seriesEdit
Although he is ordained as a Catholic priest, Father Mulcahy demonstrates a familiarity with most denominations, including offering a prayer in Hebrew for a wounded Jewish soldier (Cowboy) and explaining the rituals of a Buddhist wedding to other attendees from the camp (Ping Pong), to doing a Methodist service on Sunday for Colonel Potter. He has mentioned more than once that he finds himself inhibited by the Southern Baptist faith, calling it "frenetic and forceful".
Mulcahy understands that many of the people in his "flock" are non-religious or have other faiths. Knowing this, he chooses to preach by example or by helping someone else see the error of their ways. Although his own quiet faith in God is unshakable, Mulcahy is often troubled over whether his role as chaplain and spiritual leader has importance compared to the doctors' prevalent talent for saving lives. He mentions to Hawkeye that as a man of the cloth he cannot readily see the results of his work, while the doctors know almost immediately whether their work is doing any good; Hawkeye responds to Mulcahy saying, "I'm able to do a lot of things in surgery that I'm really not good enough to do", which gives Mulcahy some degree of comfort. Nonetheless, Mulcahy is occasionally motivated to step out of his own comfort zone to prove himself, volunteering for a dangerous missions, including to demonstrate his own courage to a soldier who had shot himself in the foot to get out of combat duty (Mulcahy's War), and putting himself in harm's way to retrieve or negotiate for medical supplies (Tea and Empathy, Out of Gas).
While Mulcahy maintains a deep compassion for others, it has to be tempered occasionally by the hard realism of particular circumstances. In Yessir, That's Our Baby, when an Amerasian infant is left by her mother at the 4077th, Mulcahy warns the staff that delivering her to the orphanage is not a good idea, as mixed race children are horribly mistreated in every level of Korean society. Instead, he proposes leaving her at a secluded monastery where she could be treated better, educated and perhaps transferred out of Korea when she's an adult. Hawkeye and the others are resistant to this option and attempt to make other arrangements, but when they all fail, they concede that Mulcahy's solution is the only way and sadly act on his advice.
Mulcahy's moral code and sacred office very nearly get him in hot water on one occasion. In A Holy Mess, a soldier, Private Gillis, who just found out his wife back home had given birth to someone else's baby, goes AWOL from his unit and arrives at the 4077th. During Sunday service in the Mess Tent, Gillis' CO, Lieutenant Spears, arrives and orders him to come with him, but when Gillis asks Mulcahy for sanctuary, the Father is willing to grant it to him then and there in the Mess Tent, much to Spears' consternation. Potter is dubious, but defends Mulcahy's actions to Spears who calls him a "mess tent monk". But after all military channels are exhausted, Mulcahy still refuses to turn Gillis over. When Spears orders his MPs to arrest him, Gillis goes for his rifle. After a brief stuggle, Gillis aims it at Mulcahy, but Mulcahy angrily stares him down and rebukes him for using God's house for his own purpose, and then desecrating it by pointing a deadly weapon at another human. Mulcahy is able to grab the rifle from Gillis and throw it away, and Gillis collapses in sobs into Mulcahy's arms. For his role in subduing Gillis, Mulcahy avoids any punishment for initially sheltering him, and the priest is relieved that Gillis has his mental distress taken into account with him receiving psychiatric treatment in custody from Dr. Sidney Freedman
To a fault, Father Mulcahy is a selfless person in every way, but even he occasionally has his self-centered moments. A recurring example of this is when he is repeatedly passed over for promotion. In Captains Outrageous he is livid when he finds he is yet again left off the promotions list, but after Potter intercedes on his behalf, Mulcahy gets his long-awaited due and is finally promoted to Captain saying, "The meek may inherit the earth, but it's the grumpy who get promoted!".
Another example of his self-centeredness is in Blood Brothers, as he is frantically trying to get the camp in ship shape for a visiting Cardinal, but inwardly he was looking for a pat on the back, and to his aggravation most of the of the camp is uncooperative, causing him to verbally lash out at them. But Mulcahy is brought down off his high pulpit when Hawkeye reveals he just had to tell a patient he has Leukemia. He goes and talks with the ill soldier, and then during a special service for the Cardinal (which he forgot all about) Mulcahy finally realizes, and reveals to the attendees, how selfish he has been.
Series finale & AfterMASH Edit
In Goodbye, Farewell and Amen, while helping to get POWs out of a holding pen during an artillery barrage, he is knocked out and loses most of his hearing when a shell explodes at close range. He tells his friends that he intends to work with the deaf following the war, but only B. J. knows of his deafness, and helps him conceal this handicap from the others until after they all go home.
Reprising his role as Father Mulcahy, William Christopher was one of three M*A*S*H regulars, along with Harry Morgan and Jamie Farr, to co-star in the sequel series AfterMASH.
After returning home to Philadelphia, Mulcahy is distraught over not being given his own parish and becomes a very heavy drinker. His sister, "the sister", called Colonel Potter in Missouri to bring Mulcahy's problem to his attention, and Potter arranges for Mulcahy to undergo an initial experimental procedure in St. Louis to replace most of the damaged tissue in his left eardrum. Days later, with Mulcahy's hearing well on the way to being fully restored, he decides to join Potter and Klinger and become the resident chaplain at "General General".