In last night’s vice presidential debate Martha Raddatz asked the vice president and Congressman Paul Ryan to discuss the role that their Catholic faiths “played in your own personal views on abortion.”

This was sort of a soft ball question for Ryan and, yet, something about his stance is odd.

While it might perhaps have been more interesting to hear the role their Catholic upbringing had in their feelings about, say, capital punishment or Medicaid, abortion it was. Ryan explained his position like this:

Now I believe that life begins at conception.

That’s why — those are the reasons why I’m pro-life. Now I understand this is a difficult issue, and I respect people who don’t agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they’re doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.

All I’m saying is, if you believe that life begins at conception, that, therefore, doesn’t change the definition of life. That’s a principle. The policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

Well, come on here. If you’re going to pull the “I believe this because I’m such a devout Catholic” line, it’s time to point out that the exception is entirely tactical.

This sounds like Ryan is a good Catholic, trying follow his conscience as a politician but his “with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother” positon is no more “in line” with Catholic doctrine than that of Joe Biden, who takes a much more permissive stance on abortion; the Catholic Church allows no exceptions for rape or incest.

There are all sorts of reasons turning that particular stance into actual public policy might be a very bad idea, but why are you willing to allow this exception for rape and incest? Why is the full prohibition, which the Church makes for individuals, inappropriate for public policy? Does it just not poll well?

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer