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In parallel to the diocesan structure are a variety of religious institutes that function autonomously, often subject only to the authority of the pope, though sometimes subject to the local bishop.Most religious institutes only have male or female members but some have both.Positive ecclesiastical laws, based directly or indirectly upon immutable divine law or natural law, derive formal authority in the case of universal laws from promulgation by the supreme legislator—the Supreme Pontiff—who possesses the totality of legislative, executive and judicial power in his person, while particular laws derive formal authority from promulgation by a legislator inferior to the supreme legislator, whether an ordinary or a delegated legislator.The actual subject material of the canons is not just doctrinal or moral in nature, but all-encompassing of the human condition.In the first thousand years of Catholic history, different varieties of Christianity developed in the Western and Eastern Christian areas of Europe.Though most Eastern-tradition churches are no longer in communion with the Catholic Church after the Great Schism of 1054, autonomous particular churches of both traditions currently participate, also known as "churches sui iuris" (Latin: "of one's own right").The name "Catholic Church" for the whole church is used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1990) and the Code of Canon Law (1983).

While the "Roman Church" has been used to describe the pope's Diocese of Rome since the Fall of the Western Roman Empire and into the Early Middle Ages (6th–10th century), the "Roman Catholic Church" has been applied to the whole church in English language since the Protestant Reformation in the late 16th century.It has all the ordinary elements of a mature legal system: Canon law concerns the Catholic Church's life and organisation and is distinct from civil law.In its own field it gives force to civil law only by specific enactment in matters such as the guardianship of minors.The Holy See also confers orders, decorations and medals, such as the orders of chivalry originating from the Middle Ages.While the famous Saint Peter's Basilica is located in Vatican City, above the traditional site of Saint Peter's tomb, the papal cathedral for the Diocese of Rome is the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran, located within the city of Rome, though enjoying extraterritorial privileges accredited to the Holy See.

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