From a reader:
Can a priest give AA meetings for a overindulgent penitent?
WHAT?!? Noooo… bad idea.
Look. A priest can, I guess, give whatever penances he can get away with. If the penance is too onerous or impossible, or too vague (“Do something nice for someone.”), you can, as a penitent, ask for a something clear and doable.
In my opinion it is – in general – a bad idea to propose (and that is what assigning a penance is, a proposal which the priest is obliged to propose) something that the penitent cannot do easily and in a short period. For, example, it is best to assign something the penitent can complete before leaving the church. Thus, prayers are good penances.
In the case of a habitual sin, such as a real problem with anger at other drivers, a penance could be along the lines of – and this is pushing it a bit – “For one week say one decade of the Rosary each time you get into your car but before you turn the key.”
In the counsel part of a sacramental confession a priest might usefully advise someone to seek therapy, or to attend AA, or to join Weight Watchers, or to frequent meetings of Liturgical Ad-Libbers Anonymous (LALA). Those suggestions are not good penances.