MASH’s Father Mulcahy Dies at 84

William Christopher, who played Catholic Priest and US Army Chaplain (Capt) Francis Mulcahy on “M.A.S.H.,” the Korean War military/medical black comedy TV show in the 1970s and early 1980s, died on New Years Eve. He was 84. While the show’s irreverence, humor, and social commentary made it a bit of a cultural icon well into the 1980s, it is less well known today. Still, “Father Mulcahy” has managed to live on in the American lexicon.

Regrettably, one place Christopher’s character has lived on is in the vitriol of Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, who has (incorrectly) cited Father Mulcahy as a model of the diluted doctrinal ambiguity he claims military chaplains used to have — and should be required to have. (One of Mikey Weinstein’s frequent supporters is Christopher’s fellow M.A.S.H. star Mike Farrell, who played MASH doctor Captain BJ Hunnicutt, and who is apparently an ardent conspiracy theorist — and apparent anti-Trump activist.)

While he wasn’t a real military chaplain, Christopher brought life and a unique flavor to a role that entertained millions — and he did it for that purpose: to entertain. He can be remembered well for that, rather than have his legacy tarnished by those who would attempt to use the soft-spoken, bespectacled Priest to further their personal agendas against religious liberty.

Also at the Stars and Stripes.



  • [Redacted],

    First off I must confess I liked watching Fr Mulcahy in the show M.A.S.H. and as a retired Army Chaplain (also was an Air Force Chaplain) who served in combat (four times) the role is closer than you think. While a Chaplain is the “visible reminder of the Holy” the core principles of serve the living, care for the hurt/dying and honor the dead have never changed the way you see our roles are very short sided. I am an Evangelical Spirit Filled Christian who has no doubt at all as to where my eternal hope is. Too many people; you as principle, seem to have a very warped view of our role so let me try and give you a quick 65,000 ft overview.

    While the role of Chaplain has morphed from the inception (due mainly to the needs of our troops and the country) from combat commanders (Revolutionary War) to trusted confidants of all the Chaplain must be extremely divergent in what they “bring to the table”. So you see the role is far more complex than in the Korean War when there were two “types” of Chaplains, Christian and Jewish. Now we have a plethora of Recognized Religions with sub-groups that have variables almost to the Individual Chaplains. I say almost as there are restrictions that are in place for the good order and morale of the units. Chaplain’s are prohibited from Proselytizing and there are limits as to Evangelistic activities. Since the US Government pays the bills that include Chaplains remuneration it makes sense that they want the “most bang for the buck”. By the prohibitions and guidance it allows for a Chaplain to perform or provide services for all Service Members, DoD Civilians, their Families and affected personnel in the Area of Operation. Granted I did not ever organize a drive to help Orphans in the AO I (as well as other proactive Chaplains) did facilitate numerous humanitarian missions throughout the combat zone. This resulted in a large number of positive encounters that ultimately kept our troops alive. I was afforded the opportunity to spend time in the “targeting” meetings as a result of the efforts I was privileged to participate in. As a result of the targeting meetings, we were able to more effectively utilize humanitarian missions in conjunction with kinetic applications that became a significant factor in the success of the “surge” in Iraq. Now let me play the hypothetical role, what if I had chosen to “Evangelize and Proselytize” only? Numerous people would still not have a peaceful relationship with God, to include several Jews that found a new found faith in the Religion they were a part of. Personally I led over 100 personnel to the Lord and it was done because of my intentional role of being involved in their lives. There is nothing wrong – at all – of a Chaplain leading a person to faith in their (the Chaplains) faith if it is done correctly or for that matter no faith. This is done when the Service Member, DoD Civilian or their Families asks to know more about the Chaplains faith; but, you must earn that right. If all I had “only” done was be an Evangelist then I would have been relegated to obscurity and I can say with absolute certainty that more of our people would be injured or dead as well as the inhabitants in our AO.

    So though Fr Mulcahy was imaginary and never existed in a military role he did live in the spirit of the Chaplaincy. With careful credit to the Technical advisors (most were medical; however, the DoD public affairs office was actively involved as advisors) the Chief of Chaplains office for the Army was consulted many times about role limits and some historically accurate depictions of a Chaplain in Combat. I too had the questions asked, how does a Chaplain support war, and do you really make a difference? Since our impact can be seen in the long term, immediate results are rare. The one and only rule a Chaplain must do is to be approachable. The more obstacles a Chaplain puts in place the less likely they are to be trusted and used as an advisor (absolute confidentiality is key) to both leaders and the rank and file. If we see Fr Mulcahy as a “watered down” role of Chaplain then you miss the essence of his role. In chaos, the Chaplain brings a sense of peace, in relaxed environments the Chaplain brings an inquisitive role. In conclusion you [redacted], have you ever gotten to know the Airmen that work for you? Can you name their pets, children, parents or anniversary/birthdays? I would venture the answer is no. Life is too short and fragile to be flippant. God speed to Mr Christopher William, who will always be considered the realistic Chaplain role for a vast majority of our people.


    Quentin D Collins, Chaplain Colonel – Retired, PhD, ELI-MP
    [Edited by Admin]

    • @Quentin

      You’re right that people have a “very warped view” of the chaplaincy. Chief among these is Mikey Weinstein, who has outright stated that chaplains who have beliefs he doesn’t like shouldn’t be allowed to be chaplains. You can read his words here. That’s not what the chaplaincy is, or how it is supposed to be.

      You, too, it seems: It is unconscionable that you, as a former chaplain, have attacked the character and faith of an Air Force chaplain and contacted his superiors in attempts to have him sanctioned or discharged. Your intolerance belies your former career as a chaplain, as well as the “approachable” stories you tell. Your view of the chaplaincy appears warped, as well.

      Do you find it ironic that conservative chaplains and Christians support your right to be a chaplain, yet you do not support theirs? And people claim conservative Christians are the “intolerant” ones.

    • Freedom Fighter


      Obviously, I have no beef with your subjective views about your own experiences as a chaplain. However, you are quite incorrect in your assertion that chaplains may not proselytize.

  • @Quentin, every time I read your replies, the one thing that comforts me the most about all of the credentials that you list is knowing that you are retired, and that new chaplains are being commissioned that do not align themselves with God hating groups (MRFF), but with the Bible. This is how to distinguish between who is really “spirit-filled” and who is not (Matthew 7:16).

    By the way, I read your letter. In my opinion, it was a classic example of liberal hypocrisy, as you claim tolerance, yet are intolerant of me because you do not like my beliefs. Its ironic that you claim to love all of the troops that you have served, but I would hate to see how you treated those with beliefs that are agreeable to mine. If you send letters to have me sanctioned, I could not imagine what you did to others that disagreed with you. Sounds like a “warped view of chaplaincy.”

    Here is my view:

    And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

  • “Those who cry for tolerance are the least tolerant of them all” – Me