Father John Patrick Francis Mulcahy (usually known simply as Francis when he isn't addressed as 'Father') is a recurring character on the classic 1970s sitcom-drama M*A*S*H. He is a Roman Catholic Priest, assigned as the company Chaplain at the American 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War of 1950-1953 (though the two Koreas are technically still at war to this very day). He was portrayed in the series by veteran character actor William Christopher, though Mulcahy himself has been portrayed by two other actors. Mulcahy was said to have been born in Philadelphia, and has a younger sister who is a Nun.
Father Mulcahy is likely the one thing that all the fractious and quirky personnel of the 4077th all agree on in a positive way, even to Frank Burns. He has the open admiration of arguable main character and self-indulgent agnostic Hawkeye Pierce, and his opinion is largely that of all present from series start to finish. Never strict and rarely judgmental, Mulcahy often finds the war and the needs of his sometimes huge-flock (including all the soldiers who pass through the medical unit) put a strain on his otherwise boundless-energy and frequently challenge his faith. He is driven by a need to be useful and feels he is often there only to administer last rites to the fallen. As one might imagine, the pains and the joys associated with the Christmas season are among his greatest challenges in both war and peace.
In the finale to the original series, Mulcahy had been wounded, suffered hearing loss, and had developed a drinking problem that he had taken control of by immersing himself in the needs of the post-war Veterans of many wars, not just Korea. Later, in the short-lived spin-off AfterM*A*S*H, Mulcahy, Klinger, and Potter helped run a stateside veterans' hospital.
Father Mulcahy is a priest at least somewhat in the classic Hollywood mold, and is frequently cited as being one of the only consistently positive portrayals of religious figures on American television.
Appearances in Christmas specials
While considered a supporting character in the early part of the first season, Father Mulcahy had a much more regular presence by the time of the series' first Christmas episode, "Dear Dad". Hawkeye relates in a letter to his father in Maine how Mulcahy stopped a frantic Max Klinger from almost killing the Christmas spirit killjoy Frank Burns after decking him (and there was much rejoicing), and then talking down the MP who wanted to arrest Klinger. The same letter offers praise for Mulcahy's efforts to decorate the dingy unit for the holidays, a task Hawkeye regards as Sisyphean in nature.
The second Christmas episode, "Dear Sis", allows the Padre (as new CO Colonel Sherman Potter often calls him) to take center stage, as events conspire to test his faith as never before. Between a despondent flock that wants to be home and not attending his sermons, black-marketeers robbing the Christmas dinner meant for the local orphans, and tasks in which he is frequently shown to be all but useless and being pushed too far by an angry soldier, he is a priest badly in need of his own words of encouragement. But when he manages to give comfort and joy to the semi-Ebenezer Scrooge-like Charles Winchester and then receives a rousing tribute from his flock led by Hawkeye, even a sudden influx of wounded is not enough to break his spirit.
In the third and last M*A*S*H Christmas episode, "Death Takes a Holiday", Mulcahy aids Hawkeye, BJ Hunnicutt, and Margaret Houlihan as they work feverishly to keep a dying soldier alive through all of Christmas Day. In the end, they are almost successful and the Padre readily agrees to falsifying the records by a half-hour to keep the soldier's family from associating his loss directly with Christmas.
In the spin-off show's Christmas episode, "All About Christmas Eve", Mulcahy managed to use a bit of Klinger-like scrounging to obtain a TV from a local retailer so that the veterans and staff would have this new form of entertainment (which of course featured low-brow fare the instant the Padre turned it on). To his shock, a policeman being treated at the hospital, in a jealous rage over his wife's possible infidelity, walked up and shot the TV set when a soap opera featured a like situation. As a man who'd seen a war might, Mulcahy took this somewhat in stride, and joined his two old friends in a Christmas toast - buttermilk in his case.
- René Auberjonois, who played Father Mulcahy in the original Robert Altman movie, has starred in Christmas episodes of Benson, and in made-for-TV movies like The Christmas Star and A Smoky Mountain Christmas, along with Christmas specials such as The Smurfs Christmas Special and a Christmas episode of Bruno The Kid, featuring Bruce Willis. As Mulcahy, Auberjonois was known by the priest's nickname in the novel, Dago Red.