WASHINGTON (CNS) — A Catholic Relief Services representative rejected the claim that the agency's work with an international organization working to improve maternal and child care violates Church teaching.

John Rivera, director of communications, said in a statement on the CRS website that the agency's membership in the CORE Group provides a “means of demonstrating our faithfulness to Church teaching.”

The response came after LifeSiteNews reported in an editorial Aug. 2 that Mary Hennigan, senior technical adviser in health for CRS, served on the CORE Group's board of directors and that another CRS representative was involved in the organization's HIV and AIDS working group.

The CORE Group has promoted the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and supports unspecified family planning services around the globe. The organization was established in 1997 as a professional association of nongovernmental organizations and humanitarian and health care professionals to improve health care for vulnerable women and their children.

The CRS statement said not all members of the networks that the bishops' overseas relief and development agency joins “uphold all tenets of Church teaching.”

“We acknowledge our differences, air our disagreements on these issues and contribute our Catholic voice to the conversation. As an active and influential member of the CORE Group, we are able to represent the Catholic positions on health for mothers and their infants,” Rivera's statement said.

John-Henry Westen, editor of LifeSiteNews and author of the editorial, said the CRS connection with the CORE Group was troublesome to the pro-life community despite the many good services the association provided to mothers and children.

“The basis of the concern from the pro-life groups is that when we go ahead and partner with these pro-abortion groups, pro-contraception groups, it sends the wrong message,” Westen told Catholic News Service Aug. 15. “They're doing good projects. They're getting food and water to people. But the problem is in the very area these groups work. They will establish themselves with Catholic money as doing good. Then they come back with a pro-abortion and pro-contraception mentality.”

Rivera cited one example where CRS representatives were able to include the practice of natural family planning in discussions of the kinds of services the CORE Group can offer to poor families around the world.

The statement also pointed to a 2006 CORE Group document referenced by LifeSiteNews that promoted artificial birth control to prevent the spread of the virus that causes AIDS. It acknowledged that two CRS representatives reviewed the document and offered revisions that were “more in line with our HIV prevention approaches.”

“However, their comments may or may not be taken into consideration in any final documents and CRS did not endorse this document,” Rivera's statement said. “CRS has since revised our policies to ensure that our name is not associated with documents that are counter to Church teaching.”