Charge: The Catholic Church forbids Catholics to read the Bible.
This is one of the more absurd charges made against the Church. Catholics are strongly encouraged to read the Bible. Such has always been the Church's stand.
This charge against the Church has as its basis a misunderstanding of history. The Catholic Church, as the guardian and interpreter of Holy Writ, must protect the faithful from erroneous teachings that come from bad or false translations. The Church has forbidden the use of various translations that could not hold up under the scrutiny of bishops, who are charged by Christ to care for the souls of their flocks. Resulting from a historical misunderstanding of the most prudent action on the part of bishops, the charge that Catholics are forbidden to read the Bible was born. It is an utterly false charge.
Vatican II & the CCC
Echoing the Second Vatican Council in its Dei Verbum, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
"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)
Chain the Bibles
Another thing that has contributed to this false charge is the historical fact that we used to chain our Bibles to the altar. Before the advent of the printing press, all Bibles had to be painstakingly written by hand by scribe-monks, and most were very beautifully decorated. As one would expect, these Bibles were very expensive.
The reason these Bibles were chained to the altar had nothing to do with keeping them from the people, but everything to do with keeping them secure from thieves. Thieves would steal the expensive Bibles and then ransom them back to the parish church they stole them from. Until the printing press made copies of the Bible affordable, parishes had to protect the hand written versions from thieves.