I’ve argued this issue so many times that I can do it on autopilot. That’s not a good thing — it shows how common this claim is.
Start by narrowing the accusation.
“The Church”? The whole worldwide Catholic Church did this, not just a particular province or country or area? That would require either (a) a statement from an ecumenical council; or (b) a pope’s order. Ask your friend what specific document from a pope or an ecumenical council “banned the Bible.” No such document exists.
If your friend digs deeper, he’ll come back to you by naming “The Council of Toulouse.” The Catholic Church has had 21 ecumenical councils, none of which was held at Toulouse. There was a synod, a meeting of Bishops, in Toulouse (France) and those bishops had jurisdiction only over their own territory, not the whole Catholic Church (non-Catholics can overlook the difference between an ecumenical council and a local council). So now we’ve narrowed the first part of the allegation from “The Catholic Church” to “some French bishops.”
Next, what exactly was banned at The Council of Toulouse? Copies of the Scriptures in the romance languages. You could still own a Bible, you just couldn’t own a translation in a romance language (such as French). Why? Because Gnostic heretics had circulated false “Bibles” in the romance languages and the Bishops didn’t want their cult to spread. This leads into your second point:
Jehovah’s Witnesses have a corrupt Bible translation called the New World Bible which renders John 1:1 as: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was a god.” Rather than the actual language, which says, “…and the word was God.” It changes Scriptures’ words to fit their beliefs. Suppose a clergyman told his congregation not to read this falsified “Bible.” Would that censorship be acceptable? Sure — he’s trying to protect his flock from reading a phony Bible and being led astray by the forged text. That is precisely what the Toulouse Bishops did. They told their flock not to read the phony “Bibles.” What’s wrong with that?
– anyone in Toulouse could still walk into a Catholic Church and read the Bible (presuming they were literate) because the Bibles remained available to the public inside the church buildings, as you state above;
– Catholic monks and scribes continued to make copies of the Bible for Catholic believers;
– Scripture continued to be read aloud in pulblic at evey Catholic Mass, just like it is now, 365 days per year in churches around the globe. Why would the Church read aloud from a book they supposedly were “banning?”
It’s worth adding that the Catechism of the Catholic Church encourages frequent Bible reading. “The Church forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” CCC 133.
Also, Bible reading is an indulgenced activity in the Catholic Church. Indulgences are determined by the Vatican. Why would the pope reward an activity that suppossedly was outlawed?