A panel will be asked "to understand the reasons which led to the way these affairs were handled" and make recommendations as to how to handle the question, the Bishops' Conference of France (CEF) said Wednesday.
Members will probably include historians, magistrates, specialists on children, church sociologists and a canon-law expert, CEF spokesman said on Thursday.
They will be asked to draw up a report in 18 months to two years.
The statement said the commission's work would include "collecting accounts of victims in order to better understand the reasons that led to these acts" and help prevention efforts.
Some financial compensation may be offered to victims.
The church has been hit by a wave of sex abuse scandals in France and elsewhere.
The most senior French Catholic cleric to be caught up in the abuse scandal is Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who is to go on trial in January for allegedly covering up for a priest accused of abusing boy scouts in the Lyon area in the 1980s.
A number of well-known figures in September called for a parliamentary inquiry into the scandals.
The Senate rejected the idea last month but ordered an "information mission" on abuse on "all places that deal with minors".
Victims gave a cautious welcome to the bishops' announcement.