The decision stems from the need to ensure greater expediency when considering appeals, the statement said, and added that the committee’s activities will not affect existing competencies.
Cases are to be considered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) the former Holy Office, to which the new commission is attached.
The chairman and the seven members of the new body are to be appointed by Pope Francis himself, the statement added.
During the CDF’s Ordinary Session, named Feria IV, possible violations are examined. The newly-created body will be responsible for analyzing resources but will not “modify any established powers,” under the new rules.
If a bishop were convicted, his appeal would be considered by the CDF’s Ordinary Session, but the Pope may also determine the competent authority to consider other cases.
The new commission will report regularly on their decisions to the regular session.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said that the Pope’s decision to create this body to consider appeals of clerics convicted of sexual assault and other serious crimes has been widely welcomed and is considered a good solution.
Lombardi explained that the members of the doctrinal congregation had been examining an average of four or five appeals, mostly involving sex abuse cases, at each of their monthly meetings.
The Pontiff nominated Argentine Archbishop Jose Luis Mollaghan of Rosario to be a member of the doctrinal congregation.
Mollaghan was born in Buenos Aires in 1946 and became a priest on March 19, 1971. He was elected titular bishop of Tuzi and assistant bishop to Buenos Aires inb 1993 and promoted to Archbishop of Rosario on December 22, 2005.
The Argentinian archbishop holds a degree in theology and a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
With the creation of this commission, the Pope attempts to tackle recent scandals that have shaken the Church, especially charges of pedophilia brought against priests and their superiors.
Pope Francis has also created a commission composed of cardinals and laypeople to study how to prevent abuse by the clergy and how best to help the victims.