CHICAGO (CBS) — The debate over mandatory contraception coverage is a watershed moment, according to Francis Cardinal George.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports, the Chicago Roman Catholic leader says it could mean big changes for the Church.

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LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports

Cardinal George says a movement toward a secular society has been building for a long time, and health care regulations with regard to birth control exemplify how all religions will either have to take their activities private, or change their public outreach.

“In order to do anything publicly, we’re going to have to cloak it in some kind of explicit religious circumstance that would not make it possible to run big universities and large hospitals as we’ve run them before,” George said.

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The cardinal told members of the Union League Club downtown that the Church may otherwise sell its hospitals, pay penalties, or in a last resort, close them altogether, rather than offer birth control. George says offering birth control would be cooperating with evil.

A proposed federal rule had called for requiring all employers to pay for “all FDA-approved forms of contraception,” including faith-based religious-based hospitals, schools and charities that employ people of other faiths. The rule never applied to churches or other explicitly religious-affiliated employers.

After complaints that the rule violated “freedom of religion,” the White House in February altered the plan to accommodate religious groups. Women would still get free contraception coverage, but religious organizations that object to coverage, though, won’t have to offer or pay for it. The cost will be passed on directly to an employee’s insurance company.

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George has been among many who say the the rule is a clear violation of the First Amendment, as the mandate does not allow the most fundamental freedom of religious liberty.