Sherlock (Sherlog), Paul (1595–1646), Jesuit priest and theologian, was born in August 1595 at or near Waterford city, reputedly the son of Walter Sherlock and his wife Beatrice Leonard. He was a descendant of James Sherlock of Gracedieu who, in 1494, was granted extensive lands in Co. Waterford by Henry VII in reward for his family's loyalty to the Tudor monarchy. The Sherlocks, who served frequently as mayors of Waterford city between 1492 and 1642, were one of the foremost catholic mercantile and landowning families of east Waterford.
As a young boy Sherlock attained a proficiency in Latin under the tutelage of a catholic schoolmaster in Waterford. Like many of his contemporaries, he left Ireland for Spain, aged 16, to study at the Jesuit-run Irish College at Salamanca. He landed in Bilbao in May 1612 and reached Salamanca at the beginning of July. Together with Thomas Vitus (Wyse), a fellow-student from Waterford, he was admitted to the Society of Jesus at Salamanca on 30 September 1612. He spent the first two years of his novitiate at Villagarcia and Medina del Campo before travelling to Santiago de Compostela in 1614. Over the next seven years he studied philosophy and theology at the Jesuit college at Valladolid and at Santiago, where in 1621 he was ordained. In 1624 he succeeded Thomas White (qv), who had died in 1622, as rector of the Irish college at Compostela; four years later he was appointed rector of the Irish college at Salamanca, where he remained until his death in 1646.
A highly educated man, Sherlock taught scholastic theology and divinity both at Salamanca and Compostella. He published many theological works which earned him considerable praise from scholars in Spain and France. His most important work was a combination of ecclesiastical history and devotional commentary based on the text of the Song of Solomon; it was published in three folio volumes: Anteloquia ethica et historica in Canticum Canticorum (Lyons, 1634), Commentarium in duo priora capita Cantici Canticorum (Lyons, 1637), and Commentarium in reliqua captia Cantici Canticorum (Lyons, 1640), all three volumes being reprinted in Venice in 1641. He dedicated the work to Fernando de Vera, bishop of Cuzco, whose financial generosity, combined with the earnings accrued through publication, were sufficient to enable Sherlock to found a library at the Irish college at Salamanca. Two other works, written under the pseudonym of Paulus Leonardus, were also published: Responsio ad expostulationes recentium quorundam theologorum contra scientiam mediam (Lyons, 1644) and Antiquitatum Hebraicarum Dioptra (Lyons, 1651).
In April 1642 and again in February 1643, Robert Nugent, superior of the Jesuits in Ireland, wrote to the general of the order, Viteilleshi, requesting the return to Ireland of Sherlock and another Irish Jesuit, Luke Wadding (a professor at Salamanca and cousin of the Franciscan Luke Wadding (qv) (1588–1657)), declaring both priests to be ‘absolutely necessary to this mission’ (Grogan, 94). Neither priest returned.
Sherlock's religious practices of flagellation, wearing hair shirts, and fasting eventually eroded his health. It was believed by some that he received direct communication from heaven while praying and writing. He died 9 August 1646 at the Irish college, aged 50 years, and was buried in Salamanca.
After his death the Jesuits claimed that the library he founded at the Irish college was the property of their society and not the university. Four Irish students of the college took proceedings in the court of the chancellor of the university, successfully recovering the books acquired by Sherlock. In 1919 a six-foot brass plaque was erected in Waterford's catholic cathedral commemorating a unique group of priests, native to the diocese, who were eminent in the church both at home and abroad. Paul Sherlock is among those commemorated.