For western Europe, the end of the Middle Ages brought increasing diversification and complexity in many areas of life. This was particularly true in the area of religion. The late medieval Church offered a considerable degree of flexibility and tolerance; a fascinating combination of seriousness, diversity, and restlessness characterized religious expression. The schools of theology taught an acknowledged spectrum of doctrine. Tradition was respected while being used as a tool for creative thinking. Largely as a consequence of the Great Schism, the international institution of the papacy was becoming relatively less important, and activity on the regional (or national) and local levels relatively more important. While there were skeptics, many people had a profoundly religious understanding of the nature of the world and of humanity's place in it, and took their religious obligations seriously. Increased religious participation by the laity was one of the hallmarks of the day. New forms of religious devotion and practice such as the Devotio moderna were being tried. Religious orders continued to be an important part of the Church, but many were changing as Observant movements sought to return to a perceived earlier rigor.